CEDA Company Pulse: Queenslanders value minimising workforce reductions

Unveiling CEDA’s latest research, Company Pulse, in Brisbane, CEDA CEO, Melinda Cilento, said that compared to priorities of the general community, Queenslanders were more likely to prioritise businesses minimising the impacts of workforce reductions than other states.

While Queensland-specific results from CEDA’s nationwide poll of more than 3000 people are broadly aligned with national results, there were a few exceptions, according to Ms Cilento.

“That probably reflects the fact that the unemployment rate is a bit higher here,” she said.

“There was probably a little bit less appetite for businesses acting in the interests of the whole nation and I'm being specific, you're acting in the interests of the whole nation in addressing social and environmental issues.

“The vast majority of people here still believe that companies should do more than just obey the law, so they should do everything they can as a company to improve their own performance.

“Another 40 per cent felt that they should also then try to improve the outcomes of the whole nation.

“Whilst that's a significant number it is a little bit less on both the social and environmental front than what we saw elsewhere.”

Speaking more generally on the report, Ms Cilento said that the issue of corporate social responsibility has been around since at least the mid-70s.

“We just moved offices in Melbourne, and one of the things that allowed us to do was flip through some of our library and we uncovered this little gem – ‘The Social Responsibility of Corporations’, which we did back in the mid-1970s,” she said.

“People reference this period from the 1920s to the 1970s, the beginning of the 1970s, as a golden age of capitalism.
“So to me it was interesting that in the 70s, that was perhaps one of the first periods when people really started questioning capitalism and the role of businesses.

“It was a period of course where the glow started coming off some of the economic progress that had been taken for granted perhaps, but it certainly become par for the course for the previous decades.

“Gaps in expectations can be driven by a shift in expectations and a shift in performance and I think what we're seeing is perhaps a bit of both, or perceptions of that.
“We had two groups in our survey, the general public of which there were 3,000 equally representing the demography of Australia and business leaders, and these were leaders from big business themselves, C-Suite members of big businesses.
“Seventy-two per cent of the public agree that business should be equally focused on these three aspects of performance and fully 88 per cent of business leaders think the same so there is really strong alignment that business performance is about more than just delivering economic and financial benefits.

“When we asked employees, they were very supportive of business leaders speaking out, but they were actually more supportive of business leaders speaking out on issues that didn't directly relate to that business.

“They were more supportive of the business leaders in their companies speaking out on issues of the environment and social issues as compared with them speaking out on issues of taxation or immigration or other things that that went directly to their business.

“The take out for me here though is that business leaders need to understand that the community is still seeing this as their comments as being in the interest of themselves or the company, and so there is a bridge to be closed there in terms of connecting more to the community.

“It's not just about areas of disconnect, it's also calling out the areas where people agree on things.

“What else that came as a bit of a surprise to me, we asked people about how they thought businesses were performing and actually there were quite favourable perceptions of business performance.
“More than 50 per cent of the general public had a positive view of the performance of large companies across a broad range of measures including the delivery of a safe and healthy workplace environment, shareholder returns, fair deals for customers and actually fair pay as well.

“When you ask business leaders, not surprisingly they had an even more favourable view of their own performance, but so did their employees.

“The point that came out in the Edelman Trust Barometer about employees trusting their employers actually was something we wanted to test and it was reaffirmed in the work that we did.”

“As we talk about the future of economic growth and development in this country, trying to get to a point where the broader community believes that those benefits are flowing to them through improvements in cost of living and through jobs and wages is a critical challenge for all of us.”

Event presentations

Melinda Cilento, CEDA MP3

Andrew Stevens, Innovation and Science Australia MP3

Moderated discussion MP3

Delegate handout PDF