LONDON — According to a new study from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), 60% of UK consumers now think the reputation of business is good, up four points from last year.

The third annual “Everybody’s Business” reputation tracker, produced by the CBI in collaboration with Porter Novelli and research company Opinium, also found that 70% of UK adults want to work for a company with a good reputation and 59% of the public see businesses as a force for good in society.

Most consumers (70%) now base their decisions on which businesses to interact with and buy from on their reputation, the study found, and 79% say they are less likely to buy the products or services of a company with a bad reputation.

How companies treat their employees was a factor in their reputation for 61% of those surveyed, and consumers are now more receptive to the information shared by company employees (35%) than companies themselves (28%).

Eleanor Turner, Porter Novelli’s director of corporate reputation and purpose, said: “There were two surprises in the research. The first is that a 4% increase in business reputation is significant given what’s going on in the UK. When you look at trust and reputation across different institutions, business is coming out of that well.

“The second is the role of the employee as ambassador and mouthpiece, and that consumers are seeking out online comments by employees as to whether they should or shouldn’t trust a company. You forget employees at your peril, and you have to take them on a journey, not just talking purpose, but living it as well.”

She added: “At this time of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever for business to recognise the link between purpose and reputation, trust and customer loyalty.”

The research also found that 40% of the public judge a company’s reputation on their gender pay gap, and 38% on their focus on the environment.

Commenting on the research, CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie said: “Businesses know that their reputation is their lifeblood. The benefits of demonstrating firms’ positive impact can affect everything from a company’s bottom line to the talent it attracts. Employees are key. They are a company’s ambassadors and the public trust their voices and seek them out. So great firms are doing all they can to engage them and help them tell on-the-ground stories.

“This starts with championing social causes that they feel are important, from closing the gender pay gap to reducing their carbon footprint. Amid the uncertainty of Brexit, businesses can be the foundation stone of communities, improving livelihoods, fuelling ambition and driving investment.”