Companies as the engine of trust in society
The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer (ETB), which is now in its 22nd edition, is a survey conducted among 28 countries and more that 36,000 respondents. This year´s edition shows there are several forces driving the cycle of distrust that could destabilize society and stop progress on tackling COVID-19, or climate change. The main one is fueled by a growing lack of faith in media and government, through disinformation and division for commercial and political gain. In this context societal leadership is now a core function of business.
- Government and media fueling a cycle of distrust: The media business model has become dependent on generating partisan outrage, while the political model has become dependent on exploiting it. It is a long-term catastrophe for society.
- According to the survey, nearly 1 out of 2 respondents view government and media as divisive forces in society.
- Distrust is now society’s default emotion, with nearly 60% of respondents inclined to distrust.
- Fake news concerns at all-time highs: 76% of respondents are worried about false information or fake news being used as a weapon.
- Business’ societal role and leadership is here to stay: Among Governments, Media NGOs and Business, Business is still the only trusted institution. Trust in most industry sectors rise. Financial services show the higher improvement over the last 10 years.
- However, 52% of respondents consider business is not doing enough to address societal problems regarding climate change, a figure that goes to 49% when related to economic inequality and to 46% regarding workforce reskilling.
- Stakeholders prefer responsible business: 58% of respondents will buy or advocate for brands, 60% will choose a place to work and 64% will invest based on their beliefs and values. 88% of institutional investors subject ESG to the same scrutiny as operational and financial considerations.
- Another force driving distrust are:
- Mass-class divide: High-income earners have become more trusting of institutions, while lower-income earners remain wary. This trend observed since last year is reaching a record gap between both societal groups.
- Failure of leadership. Classic societal leaders in government, the media and business have been discredited. Trust, once hierarchical, has become local and dispersed as people rely on their employer, their colleagues, their family. Coinciding with this upheaval is a collapse of trust within democracies and a trust surge within autocracies.
- Restoring trust is key to societal stability: Rebuilding trust will require institutions to provide factual information that breaks the cycle of distrust, while leaders must focus on bringing people together on common ground issues – and on long-term thinking and making clear progress on areas of concern.
- Questions about today’s capitalism: 52% of respondents consider “Capitalism as it exists today does more harm than good in the world” and 33% in 21 democratic countries says that “centrally-managed economies do a better job than free-market economies”.