Global trust demands business acts as force for good


Government trails business, media, and non-governmental organisations as the least trusted institution worldwide. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals trust in government fell a record nine points to 43% globally, and in 17 of the 25 countries surveyed, government is now trusted by less than half. “Business is now better placed than government to lead the way out of the trust crisis,” said Richard Edelman, President and CEO, Edelman. “But the balance must change so that business is seen both as a force for good and an engine for profit.”

Although business experienced fewer and generally less severe declines in trust, it has its own hurdles to clear. Trust in business fell globally from 56 per cent to 53 per cent, with countries like France and Germany, in the heart of the Eurozone economic crisis, experiencing double-digit decreases. Lack of confidence in business spread to South Korea, where trust dropped 15 points.

China was the only country to see a significant increase in trust in business, rising from 61 to 71 per cent.  CEO credibility declined 12 points to 38 per cent, its biggest drop in nine years. In South Korea and Japan, it dropped by 34 and 43 points, respectively.

In the midst of this systemic decline in trust, ‘a person like me’ has re-emerged as one of the three most credible spokespeople, with the biggest increase in credibility since 2004, and now trails only academics and technical experts. Social-networking, micro-blogging, and content-sharing sites witnessed the most dramatic percentage increase as trusted sources of information about a company, rising by 88, 86, and 75 per cent, respectively.

“Our analysis shows that the operational factors driving present trust in business aren’t enough to expand trust in the future, said Neal Flieger, chair, Strategy One, Edelman’s research firm.  “The path forward requires more of a focus on societal and employee-facing issues.”

The 2012 Trust Barometer reveals that the factors responsible for shaping current trust levels are less important than those that will build future trust.  Consistent financial returns, innovative products and highly regarded senior leadership are the primary factors on which current trust levels lie. However, listening to customer feedback and putting customers ahead of profits are far more vital to building future trust.

Other key findings from the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer include:

  • The United States held steady across three major institutions, unlike last year when it posted significant declines in NGOs, media, business, and government.
  • Traditional media and online search engines are the most trusted sources of information for people searching for general news and information, new product information, news on an environmental crisis, and company announcements. Traditional media, TV, newspapers, and magazines are still the most trusted sources of information, according to the Barometer.
  • Among 18 ± 29 year olds, digital media is the most popular source for general news and information.
  • With the exception of technology and automotive, South Korea experienced extraordinary drops in trust in every industry sector. Telecommunications, down 32 points to 39 percent, and financial services, down 25 points to 39 percent, endured the largest drops in trust.