Consumer-facing firms could put themselves at a competitive advantage by showcasing their ethical stance, new research suggests.

According to a study by Ipsos MORI in partnership with Neil Gaught & Associates and Forster Communications, 48 per cent of people prefer to use or buy from companies that act ethically.

Similarly, 47 per cent said they would be more likely to purchase products or services from companies that have a positive stance on social issues.

Furthermore, 70 per cent said they would be more likely to transact with a firm if they knew it was paying its staff a fair wage.

The study also revealed that 37 per cent of people believe businesses should put social purpose ahead of making profits, while 47 per cent feel ethically-run businesses are better for the economy.

Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Glennie of Ipsos said it is “striking just how few people are happy with the current way of doing business”.

“Being sustainable and ethical used to be marginal concerns for consumers, but this survey points to us being close to a situation where the majority want to see businesses take a different approach and put those considerations on the same level as making profits,” he stated.

Neil Gaught, an independent Strategic Advisor at Neil Gaught & Associates, added that businesses that fail to respond to growing demand for sustainability and ethical behaviour “run the risk of being left behind”.

Over a third of consumers believe social purpose should come before profit, Ipsos