Only one of four individual investors (26 percent) believes that CEOs are as concerned as they should be about their company’s reputation, according to the latest findings by Opinion Research Corporation in an update to a study conducted by Rating Research. The results show a significant decline from the 34 percent confidence levels from a year ago, and mark a return to the levels of confidence (27 percent) reported in the initial survey in June 2002.

“Despite the headlines claiming that companies are actively engaged in changing their corporate behaviors for the positive—either by choice or as a result of legislative acts such as Sarbanes-Oxley—one small point is being missed. The individual investor doesn’t buy it,” said Jeffrey Resnick, executive vice president and director of Opinion Research Corporation’s corporate reputation practice.

The results were no better among the non-investing public, with 24 percent of U.S. adults answering ‘yes’ when asked whether CEOs were sufficiently concerned about reputation.

Says Resnick, “It is clear to us that one of the defining characteristics of the ‘star’ CEO in the next decade will be his or her ability to effectively manage and leverage their company’s reputation to competitive advantage in enhancing customer loyalty, attracting the most desired strategic partners, retaining the best employees, securing the most advantageous mergers and acquisitions, and other elements that form the foundation of long-term business success.

 “We no longer live in a world where, as business leaders, we can ignore the financial benefit of continuously, aggressively and effectively managing our company’s reputation. Reputation must be managed as an important form of business risk, just as are the more traditional financial, IT, environmental, human resource and other forms of business risk typically evaluated in an internal audit.”