In an increasingly polarized world, where trust in politicians and the media is constantly eroding, people are increasingly looking to business leaders to mend frayed social fabrics.
This is a responsibility with great opportunities and many pitfalls. The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer provides advice for executives navigating perilous situations.
The 23rd Annual Survey on Consumer Trust and Attitudes to Institutions, released this week by the global PR firm, shows that business leaders can play a leading role in healing social divisions while avoiding the perception of over-politicization. We have found ample evidence to suggest that it is possible.
“I can’t say it’s going to be easy, and I can’t say it’s not controversial. I can assure you that being a CEO today requires a great deal of courage, a strong backbone and the ability to take the heat. Thought Leadership Director of the Edelman Trust Institute: “To be trusted, you must be willing to stand up and explain both what you do and why.”
This year’s survey focuses on growing concerns about polarization around the world, primarily traced back to declining trust in government and a lack of shared identity. Respondents in 15 of 26 countries, including a majority in the United States, Brazil, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, say their country is more have either authoritarian governments or disproportionately homogeneous populations, but data are not collected for China and Taiwan.)
The survey also found a continuing trend of improving business attitudes, including a significant increase in awareness of ethical behavior by industry leaders over the past three years. In turn, we dived further into the public’s desire for business executives to address polarizing issues and their preferred ways to contribute to that cause.
Here are some key takeaways for business people looking to contribute to the cause and avoid political strife.
The world wants business to tackle hot issues, and that includes many Republicans in the US
Perhaps the most surprising finding from Edelman’s research is the public’s desire for industry to influence the defining issues of today.About half of the respondents said they would like companies to do it more To address climate change, economic inequality, energy shortages and access to healthcare. In contrast, only about 8% of respondents say companies have outgrown their role.
Some of the world’s largest investment firms take a particularly active role in advocating for pressing issues, building advocacy as a net benefit for investors and society.
Nicolai Tangen, CEO of the over $1 trillion Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, told Fortune Impact and Connect Executive Editor Peter Vanham this week:
This attitude was not confined to liberal-minded countries. In the United States, about 25% to 35% of self-proclaimed Republican respondents say they want businesses to be more proactive on a range of pressing issues, and 10% to 30% say they are too aggressive. Many industry leaders say they are acting out of order. The results run counter to popular belief that Republicans widely believe that too many business leaders are overly “awakened” and prone to toxic activism.
“This anti-arousal substance is actually a minority of minority groups,” said David Berthoff, director of research at the Edelman Trust Institute. It holds positions of power in certain parts of the country, but it does not reflect public sentiment.
Employees trust those closest to them, including their bosses.
All politics feels national these days, but relationships at work represent some of the closest ties in our lives. When asked if they trust each individual or group to do the right thing, 73% voted affirmatively for their colleagues and 64% expressed trust in their company’s CEO. By contrast, only 41% said the same about government leaders, and 48% generally trust CEOs.
“I think there’s been a real shift in the last decade or so where trust that was once placed in authority figures and institutions is now directed towards peer-level relationships,” Reese said. “That level of trust in employers is so unique and resilient that even in the least trustworthy environments and hyperpolarized societies, people have lost trust in everything else, but still I trust my employer.”
Ries noted that the sharp increase in awareness of ethical behavior by companies coincided with the outbreak of the pandemic, during which companies “mostly provide an appropriate and valued level of commitment to their employees.” expressed concern.
Getting involved in political topics is risky, but some approaches are better than others.
About half of survey respondents were skeptical that business leaders could speak out on sensitive topics while avoiding the perception of partisanship. But those who were optimistic that they could strike a good balance offered some ideas for avoiding the partisan label. Among these are disseminating reliable information, acting on science, and adhering to a consistent set of values.
Ries said business leaders should use regular communications, such as internal newsletters and all-hands meetings, to provide information on issues of high profile and provide insight behind their company’s positions on polarizing topics. I said I can explain why.
“One of the things companies are focusing on is how they take these employee communications and information that I publish and think about it a little more broadly,” says Ries. . “We are seeing some companies actually step in and fill the tiny void left by local news to inform their communities. And we see more and more examples of exploding facts.”
U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned egg v. Wade Abortion precedent demonstrates the value of strong communication by employers.As luckPaige McGlauflin of Paige McGlauflin reported in October, citing a survey by women’s nonprofit Catalyst, that 44% of workers asked their employers to do more to ensure access to abortion. , 59% wanted more information about their employer’s reproductive health care policy.
Trust in government may be low, but public-private partnerships are still favored.
Although attitudes toward business and government are divided, there is plenty of support for the two to work together.
When asked which of the four approaches to addressing social issues is most likely to lead to constructive action, 41% of respondents said that government and business working together were the most likely. I answered that it would make a big difference. Only 21% chose “both operate independently”, 16% said “the government works alone” and 10% said “the business works alone”. I do,” he replied.
For example, in the United States, voters recently expressed strong support for a federal law that provides billions of dollars in subsidies and other assistance to semiconductor companies expanding their manufacturing footprint in the United States. The bill, signed into law by President Joe Biden in August, comes after months of negotiations and lobbying by chip makers backing the package.
This week’s top headlines luck It touches on important issues of corporate trust and accountability.
It’s not just the Davos CEO. As “economic optimism crumbles”, the number of people who believe their lives will be better in the near future is rapidly declining, according to a new report.
The Edelman Trust Barometer also reveals that people around the world are becoming increasingly pessimistic about economic opportunities. luckreported by Tristan Bove of About 40% of respondents said they believe their family will be better off in five years, down from 50% of her last year.
Technology has set us on the path to one of two dystopian scenarios. But it’s never too late to save democracy.
Governments and elites have too often used technology in ways that divide society, but corporations can do their part by reframing their behavior through a trust-oriented lens. These dangerous times require innovation based on trust as a shared value from the beginning,” said Schwartz.
Investors are pouring billions of dollars into artificial intelligence. It’s time to make a commensurate investment in AI governance
Veena Amanans, executive director of the Global Deloitte AI Institute, said as companies race to incorporate artificial intelligence into their products, more resources are needed to create self-regulatory policies and practices that foster trust in the technology. said that it is necessary to introduce “For all the money we have spent building AI capabilities, we should also invest in how to manage and use these tools to the maximum in a reliable manner. We shouldn’t wait,” he wrote Ammananth.
Diversity metrics that should be tracked during the hiring process
Organizations striving to build trust in their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives should look beyond employee demographics when assessing the impact of their efforts. luckreported by Amber Burton. Executives need to analyze whether the pool of applicants reflects the local and industry market, who is being interviewed, and how those candidates are selected.
Each week we look at how a company tackles a particularly thorny topic that can undermine trust in its organizational foundation.
Standing but flexible. Goldman Sachs and its CEO David Solomon are at the forefront of the battle over remote work policies. The world’s largest investment bank is adamant about returning employees to the office, arguing that the face-to-face experience increases trust within its team and improves company culture.The stance raised questions about possible rebellion among staff, but management and employees reached a friendly equilibrium, luck‘s Jeff Colvin reported. Employees are back in the office almost 70% of the time, from 75% before the pandemic to just below 80%, suggesting signs of concessions by Goldman Sachs management. Solomon, on the other hand, has not issued a return-to-work order that threatens termination. This risks alienating employees and undermining the company’s cherished culture. “Pulling into an uncertain future, Solomon will likely continue to tweak, pamper, and evolve,” Colvin writes. “He will gladly persevere.”