Edelman Trust Barometer

One of the topics we discussed at the PAIB meeting I attended last month was the Edelman Trust Barometer. The Trust Barometer is a worldwide survey of the public trust in business, government and others. One of the most disturbing facts from the 2015 survey results is that the trust in business is declining and now stands at only 47%. Put another way 53% of those surveyed said business fails to contribute to the greater good of society. Before you get all in an uproar and say the information is slanted or statistics can say anything, I suggest you look at the survey results which can be found here.

The report also discusses what can be done to build trust. They list five attributes of trust:

  1. Integrity
  2. Engagement – which includes factors like treating employees well and listening to customers
  3. Products and services – not surprising high quality products and services that deliver at least as much as they promise build trust
  4. Purpose – the business needs to address society’s needs in what you do every day; this isn’t a donation to a local charity, but instead is meeting the needs of society by fulfilling that need in what you do as a business
  5. Operations – delivering consistent returns to investors is a key part of operations.

The key is to deliver on all five, not just one or two. The ’80’s greed is good mantra delivered on the last attribute, but at the cost of the other four. If we want to regain trust, we need to deliver on all five. If you doubt me, think about companies you trust and how they deliver on the five attributes above. I bet you will come away with a view that the trustworthy company really does all of them.

And what happens if we don’t change our ways as companies. The survey gives a disturbing glimpse at that as well. When asked what needs to be done in a vote of 46% to 24% the survey respondents said more regulation is needed to control business. In case you think it only applies to “other” businesses, let me share a few more specific responses. Food and beverage companies, your vote is 52% to 14%; healthcare, your vote is 54% to 10%; and technology, even your vote is 40% to 20%, so there is room for improvement all around. So maybe next time you talk about a strategy on preventing more regulation, you should think about a strategy to increase trust and the five attributes listed above.

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