How businesses help build trust in a polarized world

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This is the third consecutive year that the Edelman Trust Barometer found businesses ahead of all other economic and social actors, being regarded as the only competent and ethical institution.

Unfortunately, the findings laid out on the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer do not come as a surprise. Society’s trust on economic and social institutions is very poor, and polarization has become the most prevalent trait of this year’s report. 

Anxieties for the future of the economy are on the rise, political polarization is evident amongst more than half of the respondents globally, and businesses face increasing pressure to become a guiding and uniting force for society and the planet. 

trust in businesses

Distrust and polarization

It is a hard pill to swallow, indeed, but people’s trust in institutions as a whole is globally declining, and hope for the future is increasingly less common, especially when it comes to economic optimism, where comparing to last year’s assessment, we can see a 10% decline in people’s faith for improvement in five years time. 

Among such high levels of distrust, the world is also increasingly polarized, with more than half of respondents feeling a greater societal divide in their respective countries. This translates to a deteriorated coexistence between people, with little to no willingness to work together, talk or even help each other. 

Who does society trust in?

If social and economic institutions are not to be convincingly trusted, where does the pressure of faith for the future lean on?

Well, similarly to previous years, most people seem to be putting their trust in businesses. In fact, even those respondents who claimed to feel such social divisiveness, put faith in their employers and in companies’ role as a whole instead.

Numbers show how, for the third consecutive year, businesses are the only trusted institution at 62% percent.  It is additionally perceived as both ethical and competent.

Businesses are definitely seen as actors with the power and responsibility to do more about social and environmental issues. However, the risk of being politicized keeps companies under great pressure.

trust in businesses

The role of companies to gain and build trust

Business are now in a rather delicate situation; despite being the most trusted institution in society, the divisiveness and volatility of society makes the current global stage quite unpredictable. But institutions need trust just as much as people need faith for the future. There are, however, actions companies can take to become a stable and uniting force in society, so let’s dive in. 

Work across institutions

Trust is not a race, nor a competition. Companies should strive to use their trust advantage to merge with NGO’s, governments and other institutional leaders in order to push meaningful and pragmatic solutions forward.

Fighting climate change, inequalities or educational disadvantages are not tasks companies can take on alone, and so it is crucial to look for collaboration and collective progress. 

Provide trustworthy and honest information

In the age of technology, information travels at a dangerous speed, and much of the distrust and polarization of the world actually stems from such a reality. And so there is a responsibility companies (and all institutions) have to prioritize integrity, science based facts and accuracy when distributing information. Similarly, companies should also strive to stop misinformation. 

Engage employees

Trust and meaningful change start from the inside. In fact, the trust barometer shows how people trust their own employers and companies, meaning employees are a crucial actor in promoting de-polarization and building trust for what it is to come. 

Engaging employees is the first step to engaging in public discourse and reaching out to other institutions. It is important to involve employees, to listen to them and start a two way conversation. Far from satisfaction surveys, employees want to be part of the change and take part on the afore mentioned pragmatic solutions.

social impact

As they say, with great power comes great responsibility, but can companies overcome pressure and take the lead towards a healthier planet and society?

Following these latter actions could be the key to actually turning around next year’s trust barometer and finding more equity and stability in society. And as we stated before, the first step is to change from the inside and make employees champions for the future. 

Sustainability, engagement and trust

In DoGood we advocate for the importance of making small but meaningful changes in our everyday life in order to find purpose and a more healthy relationship with what is around us. 

We also believe that working collectively can help us find that which alone may seem unattainable or useless. That is why we think the workplace is the perfect environment to find that collective eagerness to make a difference, both for the sustainability and purpose of the company and a more sustainable way of being for all employees. 

Through our technology we help companies establish ESG impact objectives for employees in regards to the sustainability strategy of the company.

We are able to activate and track employees’ impact, creating engagement that translates into improved ESG metrics, reputational value and an overall positive impact for the environment and society.

managing diversity in the workplace