Finance Friday – January 27, 2017

Who do you trust?

Increasingly, the answer is “myself, and no one else.”

The new Edelman Trust survey shows global declines in trust across the board – government, business, NGO’s, and media – a result which has not been seen since these surveys began in 2001. It doesn’t matter how you slice the data – rich people are mistrustful, highly educated people are mistrustful, people on every continent are mistrustful.

First, yes, I wish we had 100-year data too. Second, yes, you might think this is old news – have I not heard about election results around the world?

But here is an interesting wrinkle — amongst the 1/3 of people who are on the fence, those who see the problems yet have not yet given up all faith in institutions, business is the most trusted. Edelman calls business “the last retaining wall of trust”, with 75% of people agreeing that “a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.”

Respondents note the following expectations for businesses:

  • treat employees well
  • offer high quality products/services
  • listen to customers
  • pay fair share of taxes
  • demonstrate ethical business practices

We are long past the point where trust can be dismissed as a squishy, non-consequential issue. If you run a business, if you invest in businesses, if you vote for businesses with your consumer and investment dollars, this list increasingly is the list that matters. Trust in these qualities, and maybe our institutions will collectively earn back the trust of individuals.

A more complete view of the Edelman study is on their site, including helpful graphics and as much (or as little) detail on methodology and results as you’d like.

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