One of the more surprising findings from the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer was the swing in trust towards business.
Despite the general population’s skepticism of business, findings indicated that the sector had the best opportunity to bridge the trust gap:
- Overall, respondents view business (61 percent) as the institution most trusted to keep pace with rapid change, far more than they do government (41 percent) and NGOs (55 percent).
- 80 percent say that it’s the responsibility of business to lead to solve problems (comparatively, 59 percent believe that it is the role of government to regulate).
- A decisive 80 percent believe business can both increase its profits while improving the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates.
- Globally, business also received the largest uptick in trust (5 points to 53 percent) among the four institutions, while continuing to close the gap on NGOs (55 percent) as most trusted.
- For the sixteenth consecutive year, technology (74 percent) remains the most trusted industry.
- Among the issues cited as most critical for business to address are: access to education and training, access to healthcare, protecting and improving the environment, improving human and civil rights, income inequality, creating or maintaining a modern infrastructure, and reducing poverty.
Perhaps unsurprising to many, business is also significantly more trusted than government in 21 of 28 countries, with large gaps in countries such as South Africa (44 points), Mexico (44 points) and the U.S. (12 points).
This new found position of strength for the business sector has also recharged credibility of the CEO as a spokesperson:
- Findings found increased positive public response to CEOs trying to realize the dual mandate of profit and societal benefit.
- 80 percent agree that CEOs should be personally visible in discussing societal issues
- 72 percent who believe CEOs should be visible discussing ﬁnancial results.
Yet, typically most CEOs believe that their duty is to focus on the operational and ﬁnancial aspects of the company when communicating. This year’s Barometer indicates that the focus of CEOs is misaligned with what the general population believes to be most important. For instance, most say that CEOs focus too much on short-term ﬁnancial results (67 percent) and lobbying (57 percent). Equally important, 49 percent say that they do not focus enough on job creation and 57 percent say they don’t focus enough on positive long-term impact.
So, CEOs cannot just focus on operational and financial narratives – alone, they are insuﬃcient for fostering connection and building trust.
In a world where inﬂuence has moved to the mass, making the human connection through the story of personal experience and shared struggle is more important than ever. Almost eight in 10 say that hearing information about personal values is important to building trust in a leader. Just as important is hearing about the obstacles a CEO has overcome, their personal success story, and how their education has shaped them.