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COVID-19 Work & Wellbeing Climate Crisis

Businesses more trustworthy than governments finds Edelman Trust Barometer


By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

January 19, 2022 | 4 min read

Trust in governments and media has been steadily declining for over a decade, with businesses now the most trusted source of information, according to the latest global Trust Barometer from PR agency Edelman.


60% of respondents say they don’t trust institutions such as governments and the media

Meanwhile, job insecurity and climate change are the two biggest issues causing concern.

Now in its 22nd year, Edelman’s Trust Barometer surveyed 36,000+ respondents from 28 countries, and revealed that distrust is now society’s default emotion, with nearly 60% of respondents inclined to distrust.

Edelman chief executive Richard Edelman attributes the trust disparities to “widening political chasms, increasing social fears and institutions’ failure to make meaningful change in areas such as diversity, climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and workforce reskilling.”

Cycle of distrust

In May 2020, governments were seen as the most trustworthy institutions. However, following their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, this has fallen by 52 points.

Edelman says according to its results, people still want governments to take on the big challenges, but only four in 10 say governments can execute and get results. In a critical litmus test, respondents in developed democracies studied believe they will be worse off financially in five years.

It goes on to reveal that businesses are now the most trusted source of information, followed by NGOs.

The media remains the least trusted institution across the last five years, however, with trust declining by 6% since 2020.

Edelman says: “The media business model has become dependent on generating partisan outrage, while the political model has become dependent on exploiting it. Whatever short-term benefits either institution derives, it is a long-term catastrophe for society.”

Government failure has created an over-reliance on business to fill the void – a job that private enterprise was not designed to deliver.

Job insecurity and climate change top anxieties

According to the report, My Employer remains the most trusted of any institution (77%), with a corresponding expectation of chief executive officer to be the face of change.

Yet despite this faith in the capabilities of businesses, job insecurity tops the list of issues people are most concerned over, with 85% of respondents saying this is something they worry about.

Edelman states: “In none of the democracies do people believe they’ll be better off in five years. And [most of those people] think they’re going to lose their job, either because of the pandemic or because of automation. But the opportunity for businesses here as the most trusted institution is substantial.”

This statement follows the report’s findings that respondents say they want business to play a bigger, not smaller, role on climate change, economic inequality, workforce reskilling and racial injustice.

Climate change is counted as the second issue causing people most anxiety; 75% of respondents say they worry about this.

This statistic comes as Edelman’s own complicity in the climate crisis made recent headlines after it failed to drop any of its fossil fuel clients from its latest review.

Edelman’s report manages expectations of its own actions, as well as those of other businesses by stating “business must walk a tightrope. For now, business must accept the burden of filling the void left by government, but it should be poised to pivot to a more level playing field. CEOs will have to lead on policy and continue to be a model of long-term thinking for other institutions while avoiding political overreach.”

Chief exec Edelman concluded that the report offers “an opportunity and an obligation for businesses to put societal issues at the center of corporate strategy.

“There’s this giant void left by the inability of the government. We might think, historically, that the government would [be trusted to handle societal issues] but they’re not, so business has got to step in.”

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