Less than a quarter of Canadians trust big business, forcing corporations to prioritize where it matters

Canadians’ priorities have changed, according to research from the Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation (CCPC), shifting from economic and healthcare concerns to those around inequality, inequity, and the environment. Dr. Sara Diamond, President Emerita, OCAD University and expert panellist, CCPC and former New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, CEO, Canadian Centre for the Purpose of the Corporation, shared the survey results with IT World Canada CEO Fawn Annan during this week’s webinar, Fairness and Sustainability: New Priorities for Business?.

CCPC, an initiative of public strategy and communications firm Navigator, was established last year to help organizations become more purpose-driven and better at contributing to the well-being of society as a whole.

The panel participants: Brian Gallant, Dr. Sara Diamond, Fawn Annan.

The survey asked Canadians to name the biggest challenges facing the world. COVID-19 aside, economic concerns ranked fourth, with 21 per cent mentioning it, behind inequalities in wealth/Income (28 per cent), the environment and climate change (25 per cent), and discrimination/inequity in treatment (22 per cent). Healthcare and waiting for health service came sixth, at 5 per cent.

The pandemic has accelerated change, Gallant noted, with respondents indicating that they rate human factors (job creation, customers, employees, pensioners, personal interests, environmental protections) ahead of those of owners and shareholders as extremely important in corporate decision making. More than half (52 per cent) of respondents thought job creation was extremely important; shareholder interests gathered only 21 per cent of mentions. Only 39 per cent believe that Canadian corporations are taking these factors into account, and 26 per cent believe they are not. The remainder (35 per cent) were on the fence.

About two-thirds of respondents rated their concern about the key issues (the overall social environment, environment and climate change, inequities in wealth, and inequities in the treatment of citizens) at 7 out of 10 or higher. And of these areas, the difference between personal concern and the perceived concern of businesses was highest around inequalities of wealth and income.

Where is the trust?

Who do Canadians trust? Not big business – a mere 25 per cent of respondents rated their trust at 7 out of 10 or higher, edging out news on social media (13 per cent) at the bottom of the heap. At the top: news sources such as radio, TV, and newspapers (56 per cent), academia (52 per cent), small to medium-sized businesses (48 per cent), governments (41 per cent), and non-governmental organizations (37 per cent). Big business and news on social media also brought up the rear in those groups trusted more than they were five years ago.

Furthermore, nearly 70 per cent of Canadians believe that governments need to be tougher with business through laws, regulations and taxes if we’re to overcome climate change, and 66 per cent said the same if we’re to overcome inequalities.

CCPC offers a 26 attribute self-assessment tool so companies can evaluate how stakeholders would look at them through this lens. Looking at tech companies in particular, Diamond said that corporate purpose is a big factor in this sector and offered three steps in becoming a purpose-driven organization. First, she said, redefine. Second, live those redefinitions, and third, evaluate progress. The unspoken fourth component: rinse and repeat.

“Canada can be a force for good,” Diamond said.

CCPC surveyed a national proportional sample of 3000 Canadians aged 16 or older. Quotas were instituted for region, age and gender to “ensure the sample reflects the characteristics of the Canadian population based on recent Statistics Canada data,” the report noted. Weights were also applied to ensure the educational level of respondents “reflects Statistics Canada data.”

The webcast is now available to view on demand.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree.

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