Romer: The business community and trust
Trust is not something most people spend much time thinking about, but trust is an important ingredient in the day-to-day functioning of families, businesses and society. When trust in institutions gets too low, there can be negative or even dangerous consequences that ripple through a community.
A recent study from Edelman showed almost two-thirds of people are inclined to distrust organizations. As trust in government and media erode, business remains a trusted institution for people in the U.S. and around the world, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer.
The survey of people in 28 countries found business is the only trusted institution. The public looks to businesses to address major social problems because they see them as effective problem solvers. Sixty-five percent of those surveyed see businesses as able to successfully execute problem-solving plans, and 55% see them as able to coordinate across institutions. Less than half feel the same about government.
For Americans surveyed, business is more trusted than government (49%-39%). And 74% said they trust their employer to do what is right, up two percentage points from 2021.
“We’re living in a moment where distrust is the baseline, where we have to navigate disinformation,” said Matt Harrington, global president, and COO, of Edelman. “The flip side is trusted information. The equation for building trust starts with quality information.”
This decline in trust has been tracked across different institutions over decades, according to Thomas Bollyky, director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“In the U.S., trust both in government and in one another has been in precipitous decline,” Bollyky said. “And that has really undermined our ability to respond effectively in this pandemic.”
Every day on social media, in offices, and in classrooms across the country, trust and information fight a never-ending battle against distrust and disinformation. Excessive distrust has a slowly growing negative impact on society and the functioning of institutions we all rely on.
“Trust is important because it’s sort of like grease in the social machine. Research tells us that markets are more efficient, that public institutions deliver services more effectively, basically, everything just works better when we have trust,” said Kristin Lord, president and CEO of IREX.
One silver lining of the Edelman report was that the most trusted sub-group was business: “My employer” is now the most trusted of any institution at 77%. This means businesses — and the larger business community — can play an important role in rebuilding trust through their employees and customers.
Rebuilding trust is not only a job for CEOs, executives, policymakers and other leaders — it’s a job for all of us. At work, in our communities, and in families we all have a role to play in listening, practicing respectful dialogue and working to rebuild frayed trust in one another.
“Don’t feed the beast, don’t be another person piling on social media,” said Lord. “Be the person who’s reaching across boundaries … Anything all of us can do to help make these conversations more constructive, more empathetic — I think that’s a good old American, common sense, a non-partisan approach that a lot of people could get behind.”
The bottom line is that in an environment with business as the only trusted institution, the business community must play an important role in rebuilding trust. The data suggests that there is a severe lack of leadership, and the business community is well-positioned to fill the leadership gap.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.