People expect healthy and safe working conditions from responsible companies, survey shows
Around a quarter of people in Slovakia spontaneously think of the term "corporate responsibility" as taking care of the environment (26%) and caring for employees and their families (24%). There is also a relatively strong association of the term with honesty in business (20%). This results from a survey conducted by FOCUS agency for the Business Leaders Forum by the Pontis Foundation. The representative quantitative survey was conducted in September 2023 by questionnaire on a sample of 1,001 respondents aged 18 and over.
Perceptions of corporate responsibility are changing
The survey on with what the Slovak public associates the concept of social responsibility or corporate responsibility has been conducted by FOCUS for the Business Leaders Forum every two years since 2004.
“Just as the topic of responsible business has evolved, the survey itself has also evolved and changed. Although we cannot compare the results from 2004 with those in 2023 one to one, we can point out interesting trends,” says Ivana Vagaská, Executive Director of Business Leaders Forum.
In 2004, only 41% of respondents agreed that companies should strive to create higher ethical standards, contribute to improving the environment and support the development of society in addition to their economic activities. By contrast, in 2023, the majority of respondents (89%) believe that “companies should pursue activities beyond the law in addition to making a profit – i.e. protecting the environment, caring for employees, supporting the surrounding community and communicating transparently and openly about their activities”.
“In 2004, the topic of social responsibility was new in Slovakia. Therefore, we asked the Slovak public whether they were familiar with the concept at all, and as many as 51% of people answered that they had neither heard nor read anything about it,” says Martin Slosiarik, director of the FOCUS research agency, and adds: “If we move forward to 2023, only 23% of respondents have no idea what ‘corporate responsibility’ means.”
The importance of health and safety at work is growing
A trend in recent years has been the growing importance of healthy and safe working conditions. While selecting from a list of corporate responsibility activities, respondents chose this category as the most important (70%), and its importance has not only increased compared to the “pandemic” year of 2021 (62%). It is up 20 percentage points overall compared to 2019.
Next in the ranking were honesty in business (49%), clear, honest and open company communication towards customers (46%) and the balance of employees’ personal and working time (43%), which this year overtook the topic of environmental protection (40% – a drop of 6 percentage points from 2021).
Environmental protection also saw a decline when asked what company-wide issues should companies prioritize. The importance of this topic in the eyes of Slovak public has dropped by 9 p.p., from 54% in 2021 to the current 45%. The significance of the fight against corruption has also fallen (by 8 p.p., from 42% in 2021 to 34% today). In contrast, there has been an increase in the importance of supporting socially or health disadvantaged groups and working towards their inclusion (up by 6 percentage points, from 42% in 2021 to 48% today).
“The emphasis on workplace health and the theme of caring for socially or medically disadvantaged people is a consequence of the pandemic years, but also of the current inflation which is having a significant impact on people’s lives. Therefore, the inhabitants of Slovakia logically have higher expectations from companies on these topics,” said I. Vagaská from Business Leaders Forum.
We primarily associate retail chains and operators with corporate responsibility
Lidl, Kaufland, Orange, Slovak Telekom and Tesco are the most frequently spontaneously mentioned companies doing business responsibly. These are companies that have long been communicating their philanthropic activities as well as other aspects of their corporate responsibility towards their customers. They also try to educate customers on these issues and thus increase their individual responsibility.
“In the long run, the share of respondents who cannot give an example of a responsibly operating company in Slovakia is gradually decreasing in surveys,” M. Slosiarik points out another trend. Only 36% of respondents were unable to spontaneously name any specific company conducting business responsibly this year, compared to 71% ten years ago.
Willingness to pay extra for a responsible product can only be declarative
Almost half of the respondents (49%) would be willing to pay extra for a product (service) that is slightly more expensive than a conventional product but has been produced with respect for the environment or by people with disabilities or other disadvantages. 63% of them would pay up to 10% of the extra price, another third up to 20% of the price of a conventional product (service).
Although there has been a slight decrease in the overall proportion of respondents who would be willing to pay extra for a product/service provided by a responsible company, compared to the last survey (September 2021), the willingness to pay extra was declared by respondents to approximately the same extent in 2004. “Thus, it may be a hypothetical declaration of interest caused by social expectation rather than an actual willingness to pay more,” concludes M. Slosiarik.