Posts Tagged ‘World Economic Forum’



Is trust in business up or down? Apparently it depends who does the asking and who is asked.Is trust in business up or down? Apparently it depends who does the asking and who is asked. Click To Tweet

Price Waterhouse (PwC) is again “talking trust” in their 20th Global CEO Survey (2017). At this time last year, I wrote an article called PwC and the World Economic Forum Talk Trust summarizing their 2016 trust “agenda” that hit the mark on many critical issues.

What happened between now and then?

According to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer’s survey of global citizens, not only was there a sharp decline in trust in all four major institutions, but most people don’t find CEOs to be credible. Readers can learn more in this recent post on the FCPA Blog.

Turning to the 2017 PwC US Supplement, CEO’s worry least about access to affordable capital (10%) and most about overregulation (56%). “CEO concern” for lack of trust in business during the past year rose from 11% to 19%.  The Supplement does not define “lack of trust in business,” and even though the percentage almost doubled it remains relatively low on the list of CEO concerns. Considering the nuances of the use of the word “trust” one might ask what specific question did PwC pose to elicit this low concern response?

PwC’s survey further states that 78% of US CEOs agree that it’s harder for business to gain and keep trust. And only then does PwC add some clarification to what it means by “lack of trust in business.” According to the survey what CEOs are most concerned about when it boils down to trust is:

  1. Breaches of data privacy and ethics
  2. Cybersecurity
  3. IT outages and disruptions

What can be concluded from these surveys? Do you see the same “disconnect” that I see?

According to Edelman, the public does not find CEOs to be credible, yet PwC concludes that CEOs perceive lack of trust in business as originating primarily from external sources. It’s not from any bad behavior on their part that could ultimately impact stakeholder trust in any of the following ways:

  • Low trust in the brand by consumers
  • Low trust in leadership by employees and vice versa
  • Potential individual and institutional shareholders lacking enough trust to make investments
  • Communities not trusting the company to be “good” corporate citizens
  • CEOs not trusting in themselves to be ethical role models

Unfortunately, when it comes to building trust, most business leaders have yet to start connecting the dots. This represents not only a lost opportunity (read how high trust companies fare better), but endangers the long-term sustainability of the organization. Trust is not on CEO agendas, at least not in the way that will encourage and support organizational change and higher trust. Leaders face too many day-to-day decisions and too many fires that need extinguishing. Who has time left to consider why trust is low? Unfortunately, most CEOs don’t. And there’s a good chance that a year from now, they still won’t.

As I stated last year… leaders must:

  • Take “ownership” for their lack of credibility and the resulting low trust in business.
  • Voluntarily choose, along with their Boards, to adopt organizational trust (which extends far beyond sustainability, environmental awareness, corporate responsibility and “giving back”) as an intentional, proactive and holistic business strategy.
  • Stop thinking “short-term.”
  • Stop relying on their legal department and start doing what is right.
  • Stop “talking trust” and start walking it.

I’m not sure what it will take to reverse this cycle of mistrust in business and leadership. It’s certainly not due to a lack of resources or tools. What are your thoughts on this Tale of Two Surveys?

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO and Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. Now in its eighth year, the program’s proprietary FACTS® Framework ranks and measures the trustworthiness of over 1500 US public companies on five quantitative indicators of trust. Barbara also runs the world’s largest global Trust Alliance, is the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and a Managing Member at FACTS® Asset Management, a NJ registered investment advisor. In 2012 she was named one of “25 Women who are Changing the World” by Good Business International. Barbara holds a BA in International Affairs and an MBA.



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Is the notion of organizational trust as an intentional business strategy moving beyond the “talk” stage?

Back in 2013 the World Economic Forum published their Leadership, Trust & Performance Equation paper with several partners including Edelman and PwC. Fast forward to 2016 and the subject of building trust again appeared on the agenda at Davos, this time with four recommendations on how to accomplish this: Action, Values, Employee Advocacy and Engagement. Sounds like the beginning of a plan.

PwC published its own 2013 report Measuring and Managing Total Impact. These are just a few of its “trust sound bytes (note that this report also originated from Europe):

Consumers are becoming ever more environmentally and socially conscious, especially younger ones: they want to know more than ever about the products and services they use and who they buy them from. 

It is becoming impossible for companies to operate behind closed doors, so transparency is the new paradigm for conducting business successfully.

Reputation management: more open dialogue with stakeholders can improve business reputation (for example, by building trust and reinforcing the licence to operate) whereas “closed” businesses that fail to embrace new ways to communicate could be adversely affected (for example, if they are implicated in environmental damage or species extinction, tax avoidance or poor labour standards).

Clearly, businesses have to satisfy their shareholders’ demands. But, as we have seen, achieving this increasingly depends on their ability to meet the ever more exacting expectations of a broader set of stakeholders, stretching from customers, employees and suppliers to politicians, environmental groups and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).

This is prompting some business leaders to consider how best to tell their own story, not just that required by legislation.

Looking forward, with trust at an all-time low, business must recognise that it is already operating in new conditions where society’s expectations are quite different and the need to rebuild trust is irrefutable. In particular, it needs to explain its purpose and manage its impact, not only through its direct operations, but also across its entire value chain, including all its stakeholders. This heightens the value of impact measurement as a means to better understand, demonstrate and manage its role and contribution to society.

And more recently PwCs own trust research and insights blog began writing a series of topical articles.

I think it’s good news that these large global organizations are, at a minimum engaging in a discussion about elevating trust in business. But four ongoing challenges remain:

  • Whether they are able to take the discussion to the implementation phase.
  • Whether all the organizations (PwC & WEF are just two of many) are willing to set their own personal agendas aside and combine all their resources to solve one of the most critical business issues of our time.
  • Whether leadership in public companies recognizes the need to adopt organizational trust (which extends way beyond sustainability, corporate responsibility and “giving back”) as an intentional holistic business strategy and are willing to make the long-term changes required to do so.
  • Whether PwC, the WEF and other organizations see the value in opening their closed door discussions by bringing the “right” people to the table, those with expertise and first hand experience in organizational trust, culture, engagement, ethics, compliance, leadership, Board composition, etc.

What do you think? Is progress being made or are we permanently stuck in “talk.”

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the CEO & Cofounder of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust and integrity. She facilitates the world’s largest membership program for those interested in the subject. Barbara also serves as editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Copyright 2016, Next Decade, Inc.




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The World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos is in full swing, and as Sebastian Buckup, the Director of the Program’s Development Team reports, the world has lost trust in:




Few would disagree, but on closer read, one will not find the word “leadership” mentioned until the discussion on government. I will continue to contend that the world has not lost trust in progress, markets or government, for that matter. The world has lost trust in the leaders who are impeding progress and innovation, fostering inefficiency in markets and placing their governmental “power” before the best interests of the people who elected them.

The world is not facing a crisis of trust, but rather one of untrustworthy leadership. Until the focus shifts from inanimate objects like progress, markets and government to the human beings behind these institutional walls, the global trust crisis will continue unabated.

On Monday, and for the fifth year, Trust Across America-Trust Around the World will be announcing its Top Thought Leaders in Trust, a group of approximately one hundred professionals who collectively hold the key to reversing the cycle of mistrust in all organizations, via the “human” approach.  And while a few are even in attendance this year at Davos, no one individual can change the course of this negative trust trajectory.

Imagine if this Top Thought Leader group convened in Davos (or maybe even somewhere warmer) with the sole intent of tackling the real crisis and building the tools leaders need to put trust back in their organizations. That’s the meeting I want to attend. How about you? How can we make that happen?

Barbara Brooks Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America-Trust Around the World whose mission is to help organizations build trust. She is also the editor of the award winning TRUST INC. book series and the Executive Editor of TRUST! Magazine. In 2012 Barbara was named “One of 25 Women Changing the World” by Good Business International.

Our 2015 Poster, 52 Weeks of Activities to Increase Organizational Trust is available to those who would like to support our work by making a small donation.

Copyright 2015, Next Decade, Inc.


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