How business can help to heal our lack of trust

by | Feb 28, 2023

Trust is a vital component of any business, and it is essential for building and maintaining relationships with customers, employees, and other stakeholders. When trust is high, businesses, and society as a whole, can operate more efficiently and effectively, and are more likely to be successful in the long term.

We should be concerned by the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Report. It is an annual survey of 32,000 people in 28 countries that measures trust in institutions and industries. This year, for the third year in a row, Business is the only trusted institution across the world. I guess this reflects the fact that businesses were able to react to the COVID-19 pandemic better than governments. Trust in Government has fallen again – hardly a surprise.

The most startling result for me is the collapse in economic optimism. The survey asked all those people the question, “Thinking about the economic prospects for yourself and your family, how do you think you and your family will be doing in five years’ time?”

Only four out of 10 people think they will be better off in five years. That is a 10-point drop since last year. That’s a lot of people who are feeling pessimistic about their future. Psychologists tell us that

  • pessimism contributes to depression and anxiety
  • pessimism contributes to negative health effects
  • pessimists tend to have greater stress and fewer resilience skills.

When we continually look for the negatives in life, it’s not surprising that that’s exactly what we find – more negatives!

Why so pessimistic?

The Edelman Report gives us an insight into why so many of us see our future in a negative light.

  • We see our ‘social fabric’ breaking down.
  • Almost two-thirds believe that the ‘lack of civility and mutual respect’ is the worst they have ever seen.
  • Just over half of us believe that our country is more divided now than in the past.
  • They believe that there will be worse to come if our societies remain as polarised as they are now:
    • worsening prejudice and discrimination
    • slower economic development
    • violence in the streets
    • financial suffering
    • inability to fix things up.

However, there is a bright side to the report. If you are reading this post, you are most probably going to be part of the solution.

While business in general is trusted across the world, people trust their own employer more. Even those pessimistic people trust their own employer. If you are a family business owner, you are even higher up the trust list.

So, how do we, as business owners and managers, work to get society back to a place of trust? Easy – we engage with society in more ways than simply buying and selling goods and services.

Our stakeholders (employees, suppliers, customers) want us to speak up and take action on the big issues that face us:

  • climate change
  • economic inequality
  • energy shortages
  • healthcare access
  • trustworthy information
  • workforce reskilling.

That’s a big, broad and probably overwhelming list, but the report gives us several specific measures we can all actually do. Amongst these are:

  • Pay a fair wage, and make sure your suppliers do, too.
  • Support the community where your business operates.
  • Pay fair corporate taxes.
  • Speak the truth – publish trustworthy content.
  • Pull your advertising spend from platforms that spread misinformation.

That’s not the total list, but it’s a good place to start your 2023 with.

  • Retrain your employees to face a changed future when technology and automation eliminates roles.
  • Defend facts and expose questionable science used to justify bad social policy.
  • Support politicians and media that build consensus and cooperation.

Business has to lead, and restore economic optimism.  Where will you start?

his post first appeared on on February 28, 2023.