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Last week’s  release of the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer www.edelman.com/trust has prompted much discussion in the news . Edelman sampled over 5000 people in 23 countries. Highlights of their survey, for our purposes focusing on US business, are as follows:

1. Trust is now an essential line of business

2. Trust in US business to do what is “right” dropped 8 percent

3. Trust in the US media to do what is “right” dropped 11%

4. Trust in the following US industries decreased from 2008-2011:

                – Technology- down 5%

                – Banks- down 46%

5. Trust in Automotive increased 17%

6. The most trustworthy industries in rank order are:




7. The least trustworthy industries, starting with the worst are:




Charles H. Green at Trusted Advisor Associates www.trustedadvisor.com followed the release of the survey with an excellent blog post “Can You Trust the Data on Trust?” that explores the meaning of the word “trust” and how data can be interpreted in various ways:


As Charlie notes, the Edelman Survey is an opinion poll while Trust Across America (TAA) www.trustacrossamerica.com  uses quantitative data to assess the trustworthiness of American business. Both are important, but TAA’s findings are somewhat different than Edelman’s, especially in terms of the trustworthiness of various industries, as a whole.

Our data segments the largest 3000 companies into 16 sectors. While they cannot be fully aligned with Edelman’s industry categories, they are close enough to make several observations. Utilities, retail/wholesale and auto represent our most trustworthy sectors, while oils/energy, finance and transportation are the least trustworthy.

Edelman’s findings include estimates of how much people trust varies by industry. In our data, we have found that industry is not destiny; there is considerable room for individual company variation in trustworthiness. For example, technology is just slightly above average as a group. But when we delve a bit deeper into our data, the findings reveal something more interesting- thirteen of our Top 59 Gold List Companies www.trustacrossamerica.com/documents/media/PressArticle-v9.pdf are in the technology sector, lead by Lexmark www.lexmark.com , Texas Instruments www.ti.com , Analog Devices www.analog.com  and Teradyne www.teradyne.com– that’s over 20%. 

No one can argue with Edelman that trust is an essential line of business, and if trust in business to do what is right is down, we must find ways to reverse this cycle of mistrust. Quantitative data and surveys are certainly useful, but until CEOs acknowledge the trust crisis and agree to examine the data, we don’t see much changing in the short term. In other words, talking is fine, but moving the needle is essential.  

Trust Across America’s challenge to the C-Suite for 2011: The opinion surveys are out and our quantitative data does not lie. Very few companies have adopted  trust as a corporate culture.  Collectively, you have the power to reverse the downtrend in trust. Study your worst practices and improve them. Communicate your actions with your stakeholders. Get the needle moving in the right direction.

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