The reputation of business has taken a severe knock during the recession, and not just in the banking sector.

Business reputation particularly matters now because of a loss of faith in markets, the need for environmental sustainability to be a shared national priority, greater transparency in the world, and the fact that these things can impact specific companies even more than business overall.

Business must restore its reputation by building on its successes (such as saving jobs with flexible working), communicating better its role in society, responding to perceived weaknesses like remuneration and payment on time, and adapting to a more transparent world.

There are no secrets any more. In today’s world, information flows freely everywhere, and no institution – certainly not business – can hide behind a comfortable veil of obscurity.

In a world without secrets, the behaviours which build or destroy reputations become a matter of critical importance, whether you are politicians claiming expenses, the BBC paying its stars, or businesses making profits.

First, business needs to build on its success.

The big story of the recession is that employers and employees have agreed to make sacrifices to keep job losses to a minimum: wage freezes and wage cuts; short-time working. In a way that has not happened before, people have understood the trade-off between wages and job security, and acted accordingly.

This implies a much improved flow of communications within companies, and a degree of trust between employer and employee that just wasn’t there before.

We need to do more to recognise what’s going on here, and to remember this spirit of co-operation when the recession ends. We also need to do a much better job of explaining the role of business in society as the source of wealth and job creation, and of highlighting its positive impact on the communities in which it operates.

And more than ever before, businesses need to be reaching out to schools, colleges and universities across the land, offering advice and support to young people and explaining in a way that careers advisers never can what the world of work is actually all about.

They need to be working with the long-term unemployed and the homeless, because they have a real interest in the health of the communities in which they operate.

Finally, business is going to have to do more to adapt to a world in which there are no secrets.

It is important that we should talk about these issues, and think about what needs to be done to rebuild the reputation of business.