A Matter of Trust: Our Take On The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer.

The 22nd Annual Edelman Trust Barometer has just landed.

We’ve taken a look at this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer and found that this time around, the results are a showstopper for business.

The trust survey has run for more than two decades and uses a methodology of online surveys across 28 countries with approximately 33,000 responders. The survey studies the level of trust held by citizens for the institutions of government, media, NGO and business. 

This year’s report highlighted the cycle of distrust. 

This year there has again been further trust shift away from governments. Back in May 2020, in the uncertain early days of the pandemic, government was topping the list as the most trusted institution, an understandable response from a global population in the throes of deep uncertainty. By Jan 2021, the media, NGO’s and businesses had all seen a decline in trust, but it was the institution of government that beat them all with the strongest level of decline (-8).

Through the period Jan-May 2020, the UK Government was riding high on the prior year (+24), undoubtedly a domino effect from their election majority. However, by the Jan 2021 review, UK Government trust had slumped (-15).

The 2022 report has seen confidence in government leaders at an all-time low – just 42%. 

Business comes out on top.  

So, where global trust has taken a hit across the board, business is seen as the one institution that can fill the void, particularly the void left by the government. A whopping 61% have more trust in business than they do in NGOs (59%), government ( 52%), and the media (50%). 

77% of respondents “trust my employer”, putting a renewed focus on the employer-employee relationship, something that’s been under the microscope since the pandemic, and will continue to do so. This is particularly interesting given that last year 68% thought CEOs should step in where the government didn’t, by leading change rather than waiting for a government directive. In the last few years that narrative has centred around the ways business leaders responded to the pandemic, and now to the cost-of-living crisis. We predict this will continue into next year, with a further focus on environmental, social, and governance matters. 

But trust is bigger than business.  

There are growing fears across society around employment and climate change – two matters that have come under the microscope in recent years due to the pandemic, the impending recession, and the growing concerns around climate and the environment. 

85% are worried about job loss and 75% worry about climate change. And the concern is felt by employees, as respondents feel businesses need to be doing more to address societal problems such as climate change (52%), economic inequality (49%), workforce reskilling (46%) and trustworthy information (42%).

Business leaders – are you human? 

The human angle of leadership is an important one. People want to be led by people. Having an opinion, emotion, and purpose needn’t be a bad thing or taboo for a leader.  

60% of employees actively want their CEO to be speaking out on controversial issues that they really care about. What’s more, 80% of people want CEOs to be more personally visible when it comes to discussing public policy with external stakeholders or on work they are doing that has had a positive impact on broader society. 

In particular, CEOs are expected to shape conversation and policy on jobs and the economy (76%), wage inequity (73%), technology and automation (74%) and global warming and climate change (68%).

ESG needs to be on top of your agenda. 

Throughout the report, themes of ESG (environmental, social, governance) reverberate throughout as being important factors when it comes to trust. And people want businesses to engage in such issues more, not less.  

52% say that business isn’t doing enough about climate change.  Conversely, only 9% say business is overstepping the mark – which could be a nod to the widespread ‘greenwashing’ which is loud, but without tangible impact. 

Business leaders have a pivotal role to play in attracting and retaining talent in the next year. Having an employee value proposition that’s aligned to your business and an ESG that makes an appropriate impact is going to be vital to weathering the storm of the impending recession as employees and consumers alike put business and product under scrutiny. 

Find out more about creating an effective ESG policy in our ESG e-book.