- 73% of the public would think more positively of a well-known billionaire if they announced they had stopped investing in controversial industries
- Younger generations and women are more concerned about business owners being good corporate citizens
- 79% of under-25s said that responsible investment would positively change their perceptions of a well-known billionaire versus only 68.2% of over 55-year-olds
- Results come as many wealthy families start thinking about safeguarding their reputation in the face widespread criticism of the business class during the course of the coronavirus pandemic
Wealthy families, investors and entrepreneurs need to get out of the office and tell the public they are not investing in controversial industries, like weapons and fossil fuels, if they want to improve their personal reputation, finds a new national survey.
The results come as many wealthy financiers, business owners and family offices start to look at ways to safeguard their reputations in the face criticism of the business class during the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
While many big companies have prioritised communicating their choice to get out of so-called 'dirty industries' over the last decade, this latest poll shows for the first time that responsible investment also positively impacts the personal reputations of individual investors, multi-millionaires and billionaires as well.
The survey was commissioned by Transmission Private, a leading communications agency that works with successful individuals and families to protect and enhance their personal reputations.
The survey found that nearly three-quarters of the public would think more positively of a well-known billionaire if it was reported in the press or elsewhere that they had chosen to avoid investing in controversial industries, such as weapons, gambling, fossil fuels and tobacco.
While many wealthy people and families have consciously steered clear of these industries for a number of years, they have been cautious about communicating that choice to partners, employees and the public. The results signal that it is not sufficient for wealthy people to avoid controversial industries, they also need to make the public aware of their choices.
Luke Thompson, Partner at Transmission Private, said: "Many successful families have taken a positive and proactive stance on responsible investment for years now; they have been the real leaders in this field over the last few decades and beyond.
"Yet while they were the first out of the gate, they have always been reserved about communicating this family choice. Many families and successful individuals have worried that it may look like they are either seeking attention or, even worse, that their altruistic and authentic choices will be mischaracterised as cynical gestures.
"These new survey polls now firmly put that to bed."
The trend was most pronounced amongst younger people and female respondents, showing that millennials, Generation Z and women are more concerned about wealthy business owners being good corporate citizens than other groups of people.
78.5% of all respondents between the ages of 18 and 24 said that screening out so-called dirty industries would positively change their perceptions of a well-known billionaire. Whereas only 68.2% of over 55-year-olds thought the same. 79.5% of women said it would positively change their opinion of that same billionaire versus only 66% of men.
Luke Thompson, Partner at Transmission Private, added: "It is clear that younger people want to know more about the activities of successful individuals and business owners.
"In a world where there are increasingly both higher expectations of our business owners and more chances for people to express their opinion online, the risks of not thinking through reputational risks and not taking reputation seriously are only continuing to increase for individuals by the day.
"As the priorities of different generations change, business owners should expect themselves to be judged differently. We have seen younger people are increasingly concerned about climate change, sustainability and workplace well-being. As standards change, business owners need to respond positively to these expectations."
When it came to geographical spread, people living in Yorkshire (81% thought positively), South West (77.6% thought positively) and Scotland (75.63% thought positively) felt most positively about well-known business owners who had chosen to avoid controversial industries. While still high, the opinions of those living in the North West (68.8% thought positively) and South East (69% thought positively) moved the least.
Jordan Greenaway, Managing Director of Transmission Private, added: "Demand for information about the activities of successful families will only increase in the future. I think this pandemic has accelerated that trend. The current pandemic has focussed people's minds on the behaviour of business owners more than anything else I have ever seen in the past."
The poll was conducted by OnePoll, which is a member of ESOMAR and employ members of the MRS. The poll covered a nationally representative sample of 2,000 people.