New Report Finds Business Most Trusted, But Warns of Overreach

May 21, 2021

The latest Edelman Trust Barometer update confirms business is the most trusted institution, widening its lead over government.  However, the report also raises the specter that overreliance on business for solving all problems is an unstable and unsustainable formula that could backfire if employers promise too much and are unable to meet the public's and their employees' expectations.

The public is asking business to take on societal challenges because it is tired of waiting for government to get the job done.  Trust in business has increased over government since January 2021 in 11 of the 14 nations surveyed this May.

Employees are increasingly expecting employers to weigh in on public policy.  The report notes that nearly eight in ten employees expect their employer to act on issues like vaccine hesitancy, climate change, racism, and automation/re-training.  The priority list for CEOs has evolved and multiplied, with paying a fair share of tax, reduction of carbon footprint, and gender/racial pay equity at least twice as important as increasing share price or profits.

The report also found:

  • Most people are fearful of resuming normal routines, with only 34% willing to return to the workplace, only 19% ready to take public transportation, and only 16% willing to fly; and

  • 55% of respondents surveyed say mental health and job loss are the most profound negative consequences of the pandemic.

The report concludes business must lead on areas of comparative advantage “but it must resist the temptation to be the A student doing all the work on the group project because government is slacking.  As in The Odyssey, business must steer a course between the Scylla of complacency and the Charybdis of overreach.  Navigating these roiling waters will surely require adjustments and course corrections, but there is no time to waste to help a shaken world regain its bearings.”