Shareholders, journalists and the general public are all potential audiences for corporate affairs strategies. However, one of these groups in particular is increasing the level of scrutiny it applies to global businesses.
According to The Public Affairs Council (PAC), the general public has particularly high standards for the way it expects major corporations to operate, creating further concerns for reputational risk management. The organisation found these standards influence almost every aspect of the way companies act.
What do the public expect from large companies?
While there are a range of standards people expect organisations to live up to, there are a notable few that frequently gain the most attention. According to the PAC survey results, as published by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), the public believes ethical employees are one of the most important aspects of any business.
More than three-quarters (80 per cent) of respondents indicated ethical employee behaviour is a primary concern for the country's businesses to manage.
Closely following this at 76 per cent was concern for the environment, an issue that is beginning to have an added effect on organisations worldwide. In many cases, companies are expected to be transparent about the way they manage industry-specific environmental demands, especially in sectors such as mining and automotive that receive notable public attention.
The public also puts value in an organisation's ability to better the society in which they work, adding further value to corporate social responsibility objectives. Just over half (53 per cent) believe these companies should make the most of their opportunities to be pillars of leadership within society.
How are organisations reacting to these concerns?
Transparency is a valuable aspect of the way many organisations respond to these concerns, especially when it comes to communicating their approaches to global ethical issues.
Microsoft is just one example of this approach. The computing giant makes its Standards of Business Conduct available to anyone who wishes to access it, allowing people to get an idea of their key operating tenets.
Considering employee behaviour is one of the top concerns for respondents to the PAC survey, other businesses would do well to follow suit.
Oracle takes this a step further, outlining the various online courses it encourages employees to complete in order to ensure the firm operates as ethically as possible. Again, the organisation is completely transparent with the public about these efforts.
The growing investment the public has in large corporations is changing the way they report on their ethical considerations, creating a challenging environment for corporate affairs messages.