People want decency from business, not political stunts

Australians expect corporations to do “good” but would prefer it was simply through fairness rather than aligning with polarising political issues that have nothing to do with what they sell.

A survey from advertising agency Leo Burnett Australia, in partnership with University of Technology Sydney’s business school, found corporations can show their inner “good” to customers by paying their employees and suppliers properly and providing stable and fair work, without dodging their taxes.

Those three quasi-legal requirements secure brands more moral capital with consumers than weighing in on social and political issues, which only 39 per cent of the more than 1000 survey respondents believed they should do.

Some corporations employ “very clever lawyers and accountants” to minimise their taxes, as “Uberfication” casualises employment and executive pay outgrows wages, UTS business school dean Carl Rhodes told AAP.

“There’s a whole lot of stuff you can do within the law that’s not necessarily meeting up to what Australians expect,” Prof Rhodes said.

The preference reflected the long aspired to Australian value of the “fair go,” while politicians and the media pushed a false dichotomy of corporations either being “rapacious price-gouging capitalists” or “flaky left progressives,” Mr Rhodes said.

Whether to get political could depend on whether brands sought to satisfy (or avoid polarising) the consuming masses or target more niche markets, Leo Burnett chief strategy officer Catherine King told AAP.

But there was more to be gained fostering unity than division, with 83 per cent of respondents supporting investments in the local community.

“It really encourages brands to look for ways to bring people together … it does not need to be these big political statements on matters that brands particularly haven’t been involved with in the past,” Ms King said.

Brands acting to support Indigenous people could expect 60 per cent of Australians to have their back, despite a similar proportion voting to deny them a voice to parliament in October and while ultimately successful No campaigners complained about corporate support for the Yes case during the referendum.

Survey respondents faced a much more general question on the topic.

“Most Australians are supportive … although not in the way that the debates in the voice played out,” Prof Rhodes said.

The issue also felt less politically charged when the survey was conducted in January, Ms King said.

“It would be interesting to see how Australians feel towards these issues over time,” she said.

The survey results showed Australians were savvy consumers who would investigate and hold brands accountable for their claims to being good corporate citizens, Ms King said.

“Have your house in order, and if you do … it can actually be a really strong commercial differentiator,” she said.


Jack Gramenz
(Australian Associated Press)


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