A new industry report has shed light on which of the UK’s leading brands are held in highest esteem by the general public.

The YouGov survey of 2,083 UK adults was conducted at the behest of PRWeek and asked members of the public to rate 23 firms or well-known brands according to how ethical and responsible they consider them to be.

It was revealed that the top three performers were all supermarket brands, with The Co-Operative performing best. 59 per cent of the British public considered the company as very or fairly ethical and responsible, slightly ahead of John Lewis in second place with 58 per cent. Sainsbury’s, meanwhile, came in third with 52 per cent.

When asked without being prompted to name an ethical company, The Co-operative, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer were all included among the more popular responses, demonstrating the level of trust being placed in these organisations.

That The Co-operative is still held in such high esteem only a year after its banking arm came close to collapse is a testament to to the established strength of its reputation, which has been built up over more than 160 years of business.

Michael Hayman, Co-Founder of comms agency Seven Hills, said: “These are the firms that have a special place at the heart of the high street in many respects. Because the public likes them, and has liked them for a long time, you see that reputation endures.”

By contrast, banks and energy companies were generally among the weakest performers in the survey, suggesting consumers have different relationships to businesses that offer different services.

When asked about the issues they consider when judging whether a company is ethical or not, 89 per cent said treatment of staff and customers is very or fairly important, with 88 per cent citing treatment of customers and 86 per cent believing paying a fair share of tax is a crucial factor.

The winners and losers of public trust, PRWeek