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Only business can rebuild trust

News, 18 January 2017
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GLOBAL: People's trust in the institutions of media, government, business and NGOs has fallen in the past year, according to a new study, which suggests that business is best placed to rebuild trust in the system as a whole.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer was based on an online survey of 33,000 respondents in 28 countries and reported that more than half of respondents (53%) felt the system was failing them, while 32% were uncertain and just 15% believed it was working.

The most critical issues of concern identified were corruption (40%), immigration (28%), globalization (27%), eroding social values (25%) and the pace of innovation (22%).

Trust in all four institutions was down, but most sharply in media, where it had dropped five percentage points to 43%; that in government declined one point to 41%.

Trust levels for NGOs and business had also declined, by two percentage points and one percentage point to 53% and 52% respectively.

But of these four institutions, business was viewed as the only one that can make a difference. Three out of four respondents agreed that a company can take actions to both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.

Moreover, among those who were uncertain about whether the system was working for them, it was business (58%) that they trusted most.

At the same time, however, the report noted that business was seen as having a major role in the causes of people's dissatisfaction, including worries about job losses due to the impact of globalization (60%), a lack of training or skills (60%), employing immigrants who work for less (58%), moving jobs to cheaper markets (55%) and using automation (54%).

"Business is the last retaining wall for trust," said Kathryn Beiser, global chair of Edelman's Corporate practice. "Its leaders must step up on the issues that matter for society.

"It has done a masterful job of illustrating the benefits of innovation but has done little to discuss the impact those advances will have on people's jobs," she added.

But chief executives may not be the best choice to explain what is happening, as their credibility dropped 12 points globally to an all-time low of 37%, plummeting in every country studied.

Employees, on the other hand, were more trusted than CEOs on messaging around innovation (33% v 24%), industry issues (32% v 26%) and programs addressing societal issues (30% v 21%).

Data sourced from Edelman; additional content by Warc staff

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