What your business needs to do to overcome public distrust

Trust is a valued but elusive resource, especially when applied to business. Trust in business is seen as both a driver of corporate sustainability efforts and a hoped-for outcome of any sensible corporate sustainability strategy. New data from the 2012 BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll offers insights into strategies for enhancing trust in companies. 

GlobeScan has been working with BSR for the past four years on an annual quantitative survey of BSR member companies. This year’s research, which took place between Sept. 6 and 24, 2012,is based on a survey with 556 senior corporate responsibility and sustainability practitioners on a range of timely issues, including trust.

How Much is Enough?

For the past three years, we have asked business professionals to assess the level of public trust in business. The results, outlined in the chart below, show that while respondents continue to believe the public has limited trust in companies, there is growing optimism among business leaders that the public is beginning to express greater trust in the private sector. Indeed, the perceived net trust ratings have improved from a score of minus 23 in 2010 to minus 8 in 2012. The findings show abelief among corporate sustainability executives and managers that while the trust deficit continues, progress has been made over the past few years.

This optimism among corporate sustainability professionals vis-à-vis trust in business is not completely accurate, according to GlobeScan’s Radar Research Program. Our latest tracking of global public opinion shows that while there has been a positive shift in trust in global companies in many emerging markets between 2009 and 2012, trust levels in global business remain flat or are declining in most of Europe and North America. This suggests a subtle, but perhaps significant disconnect between perceptions inside companies and the broader general public.

The Road to Higher Trust

The State of Sustainable Business Poll also asked corporate sustainability practitioners to rate the importance of a range of possible actions to build trust among the public.

Next page: Tips for increasing public trust