Business Building Trust & Social Cohesion: An Unlikely Hero Emerges?

After the Global Financial Crisis, the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer Report recorded how trust in business plummeted. This was unsurprising given the global ripples emanating from the collapse of the United States sub-prime debt market and the marquee financial institutions that went down with it. When a market can no longer effectively price or manage risk trust is destroyed, and it can take a long time to recover.

Trust therefore sits at the very core of the business enterprise and now, over a decade past the last great economic disruption, the 2022 Acumen Edelman Trust Barometer Report shows that business has not only reclaimed lost trust, but is the only trusted institution among government, NGOs and media, in New Zealand and globally.

Trust in business has increased seven points in New Zealand since the global pandemic. Employers remain a bastion of trust with 80% of people trusting their employer with New Zealand employers rating 10th globally. Amidst a lot of turmoil and instability, employers have been a source of stability and responsive to the needs of the workforce. Trust in ‘My CEO’ is higher than CEOs in general demonstrating that where there is a direct relationship people are more likely to trust. Employers are also seen as a trusted source of information. These factors present an opportunity to engage with audiences where there are real concerns around misinformation and fake news.

While New Zealanders continue to look to government for leadership in solving societal problems there are strong expectations for business to step up and provide broader-based leadership. Moreover, there is greater confidence in businesses’ ability to execute and get results compared with Government.

But what societal issues do people want their employer to exhibit leadership in? The question, in essence, probes the permission space for employers to engage publicly on issues that matter to their employees, customers, partners and communities.

Overwhelmingly, people want their CEO to be visible when discussing public policy with external stakeholders or work their company has done to benefit society. Generally, people are most interested in hearing from CEOs on jobs/economy, wage inequality, technology and automation, and equity and inclusion.

Visibility on broader societal issues is significant as people are holding business accountable – about half of respondents are choosing brands and jobs investments based on their values and beliefs.

When looking at the overall perceptions in the Acumen Edelman Trust Barometer, business is regarded by respondents here and globally as a stabilising force in society. Our research shows that business and NGOs are seen as competent and positive drivers of change with a vision for the future that people believe in.

Business leaders can take confidence in that their audiences want them to step up and lead. People want more business leadership, not less.

Get your copy of the 2022 Acumen Edelman Trust Barometer here