The impression of industry as the cornerstone of economy in Finland remains prominent in the reputation index for the service sector* surveying the reputation of consumer services for the second time. Retail trade is the only sector to reach the reputation level of industries and have an above average overall reputation.
The consumer survey was conducted in April, when the electioneering spanning all of spring culminated in the general elections. Hence, popular topics in public debate are visible in the index results.
“News about investments in the chemical pulp industry probably increased the appreciation of papery industry and improved its reputation, especially as a bearer of social responsibility. Correspondingly, the reputation of private health care plummeted,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation.
In fact, private health care went under the biggest change in the reputation index. This previously second most appreciated consumer service sector has become least appreciated.
Consumers aged under 50 value the retail trade the most, whereas older consumers appreciate the industrial sector. This distinction is most visible among men aged over 60. They believe traditional industries – the engineering and paper industries – do their job best regarding almost every area of the reputation index. Women aged under 60 think that the retail trade and food industry have the best reputation out of all sectors.
Commerce is considered to be an environmentally liable and reforming sector
The retail trade’s reputation as an environmentally liable sector improved substantially. Consumers especially appreciate the sector’s efforts to improve its operations. Two years ago commerce ranked third, following the food production and paper industries. This year the retail trade bested the other sectors in the comparison of environmental responsibility.
It was particularly gratifying to see that commerce is considered to be the most innovative and self-improving sector along with the food production industry. This indicates that consumers believe commerce bears the responsibility for the sector’s future. The retail trade’s reputation as an environmentally liable and reforming sector improved, especially among men aged under 35.
“This great improvement in reputation is important to commerce, because attracting competent workforce is easier when the sector is seen as an improving and interesting field,” thinks Kurjenoja.
In addition, the commerce sector’s reputation as an employer has improved in two years and risen from the second to last position to above average. Although consumers aged over 50 rated the retail trade’s reputation as an employer much lower than the younger consumers, in two years the reputation has improved among older men, especially those over 50.
“Having a good reputation as an employer is important especially among consumers aged under 35 as the competition over workforce intensifies. Companies in the commerce sector have invested in improving their employer image in recent years,” says Kurjenoja.
Responsibility in partnerships was the only area the retail trade and food production industry ranked below average. These rankings were probably affected by the recent discussions on agricultural producers’ standing in the food supply chain.
Price directs consumers, but consumer responsibility is increasing – especially in the Helsinki region
In addition to rating the responsibility of the company sector, Finnish consumers’ attitudes towards their own consumption were also surveyed. Understanding the attitudes and the mindset of consumers is essential to predicting changes.
The region of Helsinki differs significantly from the rest of the country in regard to the importance of price and consumers’ attitudes towards responsibility. Purchase decisions are strongly steered by the price of products and services everywhere in Finland, however, the influence of price is below average in the Helsinki region.
“Naturally, young people, aged under 35, stress the price of their shopping more than older consumers. The importance of price decreases as the consumers’ age and income level increase,” says Kurjenoja.
The youngest, aged under 25, and oldest, aged over 60, female consumers and those living in the Helsinki region tend to have the strongest desire to consume responsibly. However, environmental concerns and the carbon footprint of shopping do not influence where people shop as strongly as the stores’ social responsibility (for example, as taxpayers or regarding human rights issues) does.
“The importance of environmental factors will increase in the future. Younger consumers already stress them significantly more than middle-aged consumers. This is the competitive advantage of Finnish and European commerce,” predicts Kurjenoja.
More information: Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reputation and Responsibility 2019
*The reputation index for the service sector was designed in cooperation between Lasse Mitronen, Professor of Practice at Aalto University, and experts from the Finnish Commerce Federation. The Finnish Commerce Federation is responsible for the index calculations and the analysis and interpretation of results.
The reputation index, conducted for the second time, surveys consumers’ views on different sectors with 10 questions on five different subject areas from economic and social responsibility to responsibility in partnerships. The consumer services included: private health care, banking and finance, retail trade, restaurants and cafés, air travel, and rail transport. The included industry sectors were the paper, engineering and food production industries.
The material for the index was collected by Kantar TNS by arranging an online panel with a sample of 3,000 consumers between the ages of 18 and 79.