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Insight of the Week: Corporate Affairs Professionals Perceive Growing Trust Among Their Stakeholders

Corporate Affairs Professionals Perceive Growing Trust Among Their Stakeholders

Perceived Level of Trust Stakeholders Have in Company, 2016–2021​

Four in ten Corporate Affairs professionals now feel they are building stakeholder trust that their business operates in society’s best interest, a significant increase from a year ago.

This could be due in part to positive feedback companies have received as a result of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Heightened trust in business may also indicate the successes of stakeholder engagement in working to better understand societal and environmental impacts.

Data source: Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs Survey Report 2021

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ESG Performance Tops List of Corporate Affairs Risk Priorities Globally for Organisations

ESG also Dominates the List of Corporate Affairs Functional Priorities

15th July 2021 – ESG performance tops the list of Corporate Affairs risk priorities globally for organisations (46%), according to a new survey report launched today by the University of Oxford and GlobeScan. Corporate Affairs experts point to climate change as the most-pressing ESG issue for global businesses over the next two years followed by net zero / carbon emissions and inequality in society.

Pandemic management (32%) is the second-highest Corporate Affairs risk priority in a shift that emphasises more human concerns. Less urgency is placed on the broader, longer-term issues of macro-economic risks (20%) and regulation (17%).

Employees are the most important stakeholders, with shareholders and governments rounding out the top three, reflecting the impact of COVID-19. Employees are also the number-one stakeholder group globally and across almost all sectors.

Following the inaugural Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs Survey in 2020, this year’s survey report provides an overview of opinions, trends, and challenges through the lens of Corporate Affairs practitioners. We captured the views and insights of 228 senior professionals who were surveyed in February and March of 2021 on issues and themes of relevance to the Corporate Affairs function.

Against the combined backdrop of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and geopolitical pressure, the survey looked at where the function has been spending time over the last 12 months and which areas have grown in prominence. The appetite for corporate activism is strong in all sectors globally, with over 75 percent of organisations having either “some appetite” or a “strong appetite” for corporate activism, except in the financial services sector where the number is still material but slightly lower (67%). Regionally the picture is similar, with over 75 percent of organisations in all regions having “some appetite” or a “strong appetite,” except for in Asia-Pacific where this number is considerably lower at 60 percent.

Rupert Younger, Director, Centre for Corporate Reputation Research and Corporate Affairs Academy, Saïd Business School, Oxford University, said: “What is most striking about this report is the speed at which ESG commitments have become the most critical dimension of corporate reputation strategies.  For years, ESG was a topic for the investor relations department using broad sustainability report data. In 2018, only 18 percent of respondents saw ESG as a “top three pressing risk” to global business.  Our 2021 survey report sees this jump to 46 percent. Today, ESG commitments are a defining aspect of perceived corporate character, shaping the way in which different stakeholders interact with the organisations that they do business with.”

Trust continues to be a significant driver of Corporate Affairs strategy. There has been a marked increase in the percentage of Corporate Affairs leaders who believe that their organisations are now trusted by society, up to 41 percent from 26 percent last year. This acknowledges the way in which companies have acted at pace and at scale in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, organisations still face a trust deficit in relation to other institutions.

Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, said: “One of the most important things Corporate Affairs teams try to achieve is to have their companies trusted by stakeholders. The growing sense that respondents’ companies are more trusted this year than last is also borne out by GlobeScan’s annual global public opinion research, where we have seen a significant increase in the general public’s trust in large companies. The combination of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging more deeply on ESG issues, and reinforcing purpose across their businesses have likely all contributed to these stronger levels of trust.”

Corporate purpose is similarly an area of organisational concern that is receiving ever greater attention. This year, many more companies have articulated purpose statements (83%) and say that it has a growing influence on decision-making. But when it comes to the actual impact of purpose on organisations, the results reveal some clear areas of concern. Strong stewardship from leadership has fallen away and only around a third of companies believe that their employees understand how what they do helps to deliver on the company’s purpose. The hard work is just beginning when it comes to ensuring that not only is purpose grounded in fact, but that it is a meaningful catalyst each day and for all stakeholders.

The Corporate Affairs function remains well regarded as a protector and promotor of corporate reputation according to 44 percent of respondents. However, it remains underappreciated as a driver of overall organisational value, with half of respondents believing that its role is not seen as “strategic.”  The keys to changing this are foresight (the use of predictive data and trends) and continuous upskilling including visible upticks in the quality of new hires into the function.

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Notes to Editors

Following the inaugural 2020 Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs Survey, this online survey was conducted between February 25th and March 29th of 2021 and the data collected provides a view of evolving sentiment during the last year. Over 3,200 Corporate Affairs, Corporate Communications, and related practitioners were invited to participate in the survey.

Despite several other surveys targeting the same set of respondents, 228 Corporate Affairs practitioners took an average of 20 minutes to complete the survey. The realised sample is highly representative of the broader Corporate Affairs function globally. Participants from 38 countries and all main sectors completed the survey.

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About the Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs Partnership

The University of Oxford and GlobeScan formalised a partnership in 2019 to deliver enhanced insight into the roles, responsibilities, challenges, opportunities, and themes facing leading global Corporate Affairs professionals around the world. The primary purpose of the partnership is to generate valuable research findings for organisations, senior executives, and Corporate Affairs leaders through a regular “pulse” of novel, timely, and data-driven insights about the evolution of the Corporate Affairs agenda.

More information is available here.

About Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

In 2011, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, created the Corporate Affairs Academy, a research-led programme for leading global Corporate Affairs professionals interested in developing greater insights and shared best practice. Seated within the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation, this invitation-only annual academy programme focuses on reputation thinking and engagement combined with functional and professional development and has hosted over 120 leading professionals from Asia, Australasia, China, Russia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Scandinavia, and the Americas.

Each year the Academy publishes a summary of its discussions in a white paper, copies of which are available through the Corporate Affairs Academy website.

More information is available here.

Social and Environmental Values Increasingly Drive Consumers’ Choices, According to New Research

Nearly nine in ten people who recognise the Fairtrade label trust it, compared with much lower trust in companies’ self-reported sustainability performance

People are paying more attention than ever to the conditions behind the products they buy as a way to make a difference in the world, according to new research findings released by GlobeScan and Fairtrade International today.

Conducted by GlobeScan in 15 countries and reaching more than 15,000 people, the consumer survey points to everyday shopping choices as an increasingly important way for people to express their values, with the Fairtrade sustainability label serving as a clear signal of trustworthiness.

Visibility of ethical and environmental labels remains high, with 76 percent of respondents saying that they’ve seen these types of labels. Fairtrade is the most recognized and trusted label – nearly seven in ten people have seen it, and of these, nearly nine in ten of them trust the label. Public opinion research conducted by GlobeScan in 2020 shows that only around half of respondents say they trust companies’ communications about their own social and environmental performance.

This is borne out by GlobeScan’s public opinion research showing that fair wages, fair employee treatment, and protecting the environment are among consumers’ top expectations of companies. Overall, GlobeScan has seen significant increases in the public’s expectations of companies to act responsibly, with attitudes intensifying during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of respondents say they have changed their purchasing choices within the past year to make a difference on an economic, social, environmental, or political issue, even more than those who voted or donated money – indicating that people increasingly see their everyday shopping as an important way to make a difference.

In the Fairtrade-GlobeScan consumer research study, more than seven in ten feel that by buying Fairtrade, they are standing together with the farmers and producers who grow our food. Nearly seven in ten feel that they are part of a community standing up for fairness and justice when they buy Fairtrade. And the label has a halo effect on brands, with 78 percent of those who have seen the Mark saying it has a positive impact on the brands that carry it.

Demographically, younger people (aged 18–34) are more likely than older generations to recognize ethical and environmental labels, at around 85 percent, according to the Fairtrade-GlobeScan consumer research survey. This group is also slightly more likely to report buying one or more Fairtrade products per month than their older counterparts.

“Around the world, consumers are increasingly acting on their values and displaying an openness to paying a little more for products that are ethically and sustainably produced, especially when it comes to tackling poverty and unjust labour conditions,” said Dr. Nyagoy Nyong’o, Fairtrade International’s Global CEO.

“At the same time, Fairtrade farmers and workers are doing their part, for instance by improving farming methods, adapting to climate change, and expanding positive opportunities for women and young people,” Dr. Nyong’o added. “That’s why everyone who chooses Fairtrade is making a commitment to join with farmers and workers to create the fairer, more sustainable world that we all want.”

The latest research was shared as part of Fairtrade International’s General Assembly, taking place this week in Nairobi. This annual meeting brings together equal representation of Fairtrade producers and national organizations to decide on membership issues, approve the annual accounts, and ratify new board members.

“GlobeScan has been tracking ethical consumer trends for more than 20 years and we have recently seen significant increases in people wanting to make more socially and environmentally responsible shopping choices. But we know that behaviour lags attitudes, so ethical labels like Fairtrade can be valuable trusted guides for busy shoppers,” said Caroline Holme, Senior Director at GlobeScan.

Related Content: How to Market a Sustainable Product Online

Rose Price, Buying Director at Ocado, and Caroline Holme, Senior Director at GlobeScan, sat down to give their best tips in a Fairtrade webinar earlier this year. In this Fairtrade blog post, they have crystallised their wisdom into top tips to help you sell authentically and successfully online.

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Notes for the editor

The 2021 Fairtrade-GlobeScan consumer research was conducted in February and March 2021 in 15 countries with a sample of 15,418 respondents. The countries are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain/Iberia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

The 2020 GlobeScan research is from the GlobeScan Radar, a survey of 27,000 people in the general public in June 2020.

About Fairtrade International

Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions, and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries.

Fairtrade International is an independent non-profit organization representing 1.7 million small-scale farmers and workers worldwide. It owns the FAIRTRADE Mark, a registered trademark of Fairtrade that appears on more than 30,000 products. Beyond certification, Fairtrade International and its member organizations empower producers, partner with businesses, engage consumers, and advocate for a fair and sustainable future. Find out more at

Insight of the Week: Performance of Technology vs Social Media Sectors in Fulfilling Responsibilities to Society​

Performance of Technology vs Social Media Sectors in Fulfilling Responsibilities to Society​

Net Performance,* Average 27 Countries, 2020​​

Technology and computer companies are viewed by the general public as performing better on fulfilling their responsibilities to society than social media companies, with people in 25 out of 27 countries rating technology companies higher (people in Kenya and Vietnam rate social media companies slightly higher). Perceptions of the two sectors differ the most in the UK, where people hold particularly negative views of the responsibility of social media companies. Australians, Canadians, French, Germans, Japanese, Swedes, and Americans also hold much more positive views of technology companies than of social media companies.


  • Question wording: Please rate each of the following types of companies on how well they fulfill their responsibilities to society compared to other types of companies…?
  • Data Source: GlobeScan Radar, our 27-country, 27,000 person public opinion study on views of business, government and NGOs, issues tracking, and shifting societal expectations.

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Insight of the Week: Most Important Priorities for Corporate Affairs Professionals​

Most Important Priorities for Corporate Affairs Professionals​


Building trust and protecting reputation is a ​key priority​.

Crafting and/or delivering on a sustainability strategy through effective stakeholder engagement in order to protect reputation and build trust with stakeholders are three of the top four priorities of Corporate Affairs professionals. Being transparent about reporting on ESG goals completes the top four priorities. Although listed as individual priorities, all four revolve around trust building with stakeholders.


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Corporate Sustainability Leadership During a Pandemic

As we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating social and economic effects, companies are continuing their efforts to become more sustainable — and some are being recognized for their efforts.

The 2020 Sustainability Leaders, a GlobeScan / SustainAbility survey of experts worldwide, reveals which companies are perceived to be leaders on sustainability during this challenging time by sustainability professionals representing business, government, NGOs and academia. Over 700 experts were surveyed online across 71 countries in May.

Results show that Unilever continues to dominate as a recognized leader among the sustainability community, securing the leading position for the 10th year in a row, with Patagonia and IKEA following in the second and third spots, respectively.

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Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World

Public opinion poll on social and environmental corporate performance 

Amsterdam/Toronto, 14 October 2020 – Research across 27 markets has found that trust in how companies communicate their sustainability performance has increased to a record 51% this year, with significant variations by country.

The survey from GlobeScan and GRI asked 1,000 people in each location to indicate whether they agree that companies are honest and truthful about their social and environmental performance. The level of trust is the highest since the survey began in 2003, when it was at 30%.

Perceptions in Asia are most favorable, with the highest levels of agreement found in Indonesia (81%), Vietnam (80%), and Thailand (79%). The USA, Australia, Canada and the featured EU member states are at the lower end of the ratings, varying from 44 percent in the USA to 31 percent in France.

While the public in European and North American countries continue to indicate lower levels of agreement  compared with the global average, a number of these countries have seen notable increases in perception compared to 2016, including Germany (33%, +16 pts), Spain (36%, +10 pts), Canada (38%, +8 pts), USA (44%, +5 pts) and UK (42%, +3 pts).

Peter Paul van de Wijs is Chief External Affairs Officer at GRI, which provides the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards. He said:

“It is encouraging that around the world the overall levels of trust in how companies communicate their sustainability impacts are increasing. This goes hand-in-hand with growing expectations from consumers regarding more and better reporting.

At the same time, finding the featured EU member states at the low end of the rankings strongly supports the case for the thorough revision of the European non-financial reporting directive, initiated in early 2020 by the European Commission.

Mandating the reporting of comprehensive, comparable and assured data – using globally accepted standards, such as provided by GRI – is needed if we want to maintain the momentum and progress further.”

Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, said:

“Over the course of twenty plus years of global polling, we have seen a sea change in expectations for corporate transparency. The findings from this year’s survey suggest that companies are learning how to deliver and are being recognized for their efforts. Systematic standards like GRI have more than helped. Accurate reporting has become foundational for any effective sustainability strategy.”

Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World - chart1 - GRI-GlobeScan 2020

Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World - chart2 - GRI-GlobeScan 2020

Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World - chart3 - GRI-GlobeScan 2020

Notes to Editors

Among countries surveyed in both 2016 and 2020, the highest ratings are seen for Indonesia (81%, +2 pts), China (73%, -7 pts), and India (73%, +14 pts). The lowest levels are found in Russia (29%, -17 pts), Argentina (30%, no change) and Germany (33%, +16 pts).

A representative online survey took place in June 2020 with approximately 27,000 adults (1,000 in each of 27 countries). The global variations in levels of trust reflect a multitude of factors, including social and cultural, that contribute to how people form perceptions of corporate behavior.

The countries surveyed were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

GlobeScan is an insights and strategy consultancy, focused on helping clients build long-term trusting relationships with their stakeholders. Offering a suite of specialist research and advisory services, we partner with business, NGOs and governmental organizations to meet strategic objectives across reputation, sustainability and purpose.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing them with the global common language to report those impacts.

The GRI Standards are the world’s most widely used and comprehensive sustainability reporting standards, which are developed through a multi-stakeholder process and made available as a free public good.

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Webinar | Business & Society: Latest Societal Trends and Corporate Leadership

On 29 September, GlobeScan hosted a webinar to help better understand the evolving social contract between business & society as we navigate challenging and disruptive times.

GlobeScan shared some of its latest Radar trends from its new 27-country public opinion study on views of business, government and NGOs, issues tracking, and shifting societal expectations. The following panel of diverse senior corporate leaders discussed the implications for companies:

  • Francesca DeBiase, Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer, McDonald’s
  • Mzilla Mthenjane, Executive Head, Stakeholder Affairs, Exxaro
  • Pia Heidenmark Cook, Chief Sustainability Officer, Ingka Group / IKEA
  • Janice Lao, Director, Group Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Hong Kong Shanghai Hotels

The webinar was moderated by Perrine Bouhana, head of GlobeScan’s Paris office, and Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan.

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Report: Stakeholders Rate Corporate Purpose in Time of Crisis

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a spotlight on inequality, expectations for companies are shifting. The current circumstances make for an important test of corporate purpose.

In summer of 2020, GlobeScan partnered with the Test of Corporate Purpose (TCP) initiative, a project to assess how purpose-driven companies respond in a time of severe global crises and test if they truly “walk the talk” in delivering value for all stakeholders. This research also explored institutional priorities and performance on systemic issues like inequality and climate change.

As one input into research, GlobeScan conducted a stakeholder survey and gathered the perspectives of 561 professionals around the world, including investors, NGOs, Academics, consultants, and others. Our findings, together with the wider report from TCP, signal that future expectations of business will be higher than today, particularly in leading with purpose and delivering value for all stakeholders.

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About the Test of Corporate Purpose (TCP)

TCP is an initiative formed in 2020 to evaluate companies’ performance through the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest in response to inequality, and to assess alignment with recent statements of corporate purpose and commitments to stakeholder primacy.  TCP is resourced through the generous support of The Ford Foundation. More more information, visit or contact

Trust in Institutions: A GlobeScan Insight

Trust in government, business, media, and science has increased as people look for leadership

As people look for guidance and hope for solutions during the pandemic and the resulting economic recession, GlobeScan’s Radar survey of 27,000 people across 27 countries shows that trust in institutions such as national government, global business, and press and media has increased compared to 2019. Trust in scientists has also continued to increase, while trust in the medical profession (asked for the first time in 2020) is extraordinarily high in the context of the pandemic – clearly showing that there is overwhelming public confidence in science.

At the same time, trust in NGOs, the UN, and large charitable foundations has remained steady or declined slightly, suggesting these types of institutions may be seen as secondary in the response to the current crisis.

While trust in national governments, global companies, and press and media has increased, these institutions remain much less trusted than others. However, trust in business (as well as in national government and press/media) varies greatly across the 27 countries surveyed, with people in Asia being much more trusting than people in Europe or North America.

Those most impacted by the pandemic express higher levels of trust in business as well as in most other institutions; those who feel that they have been greatly or moderately impacted are generally more trusting than those who have felt little impact. In contrast to other institutions, trust in government remains the same between the two groups on average across the 27 countries surveyed, although there are differences by country.

Younger generations also tend to be more trusting of large global and national companies, as well as NGOs, the UN, and large charitable foundations.

GlobeScan Radar is a global survey conducted online among samples of 1,000 adults in each of 27 countries, weighted to reflect general population census data. The research was conducted during June of 2020.

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