The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer was published earlier this month at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It shows a world divided, filled with people who believe ‘the system’ has failed them and in which institutions are trusted less than ever before.

With 2017 now well underway, geopolitical norms are being reshaped and the new US government is unleashing – at breakneck speed – one executive order after another. Against this backdrop of division and polarisation, the Netherlands is heading into election time.

For the past 17 years, the Edelman Trust Barometer has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries to benchmark their level of trust in business, media, government and NGOs. This year’s findings reveal the largest-ever drop in trust across all institutions as a sense of betrayal by those in power polarises society. This is the driving force behind the global rise in populism.

In business, trust is fundamental. It is critically imperative that clients, consumers, employees and all stakeholders trust your business. In today’s world, businesses cannot operate with a top-down approach. A flatter, more participatory model is needed, one that is not merely “for the people” but rather “with the people”. The most successful companies are already incorporating insights from employees, customers and other stakeholders in their infrastructure: rebuilding trust is a shared obligation.

In the survey, business is viewed as the only institution that brings about change, leaving media, government and NGOs behind. Three out of four respondents agree a company can undertake action to both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community wherein it operates. Moreover, among those who are uncertain about whether the system is working for them, it is business (58 percent) that they trust most.

A few thoughts digesting the data of the 2017 Trust Barometer:

  • Institutions must move beyond their traditional roles of business as actor and innovator; governments as referee and regulator; media as watchdog and NGOs as social conscience.
  • Company-owned social media channels should supplement mainstream media to educate and to encourage dialogue. Business should provide citizens with platforms that invite them to help shape policy – giving them a positive outlet for their views and fears.
  • If faith in the systems continues to fall, rising populist movements could wreak unimaginable havoc, with resurgent nationalism and divisive rhetoric moving to dangerous policies.

Trust is the grease needed to make any relationship work – in business and in life.In this time where nothing seems certain, a deeper understanding of trust and new approaches to building it are needed.

We all have a role to play in this. At Edelman we specialize in developing integrated communications strategies that help organisations build trust. Here at Edelman Amsterdam, we are planning a locally relevant, ongoing and inclusive initiative to fuel public dialogue on trust and find new, collaborative ways to restore, build and maintain it. More information will follow soon.

For more information about the Edelman Trust Barometer, specific data cuts or to discuss the findings in relation to your institution, please do not hesitate to give us a call at +31 20 3010 980.

To read the full results of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, please click here.