Trust: Business should grab the chance to lead society back to health

Is British business trusted by its customers to do the right thing?

Well, on the face of it, you might think so.

We’ve been running the Edelman Trust Barometer for 16 years now and monitoring the state of trust in UK companies since long before the financial crisis.

This year’s results show trust in business is back above pre-crisis levels for the first time since 2012, but that is only for one section of the population. What we call Informed Publics (university educated, upper-quartile income earners with a declared interest in politics and media) have recorded a trust score in business of 60%. That is, six out of 10 say they trust business “to do what is right”.

However, if you look a little deeper at those results, there are some hidden trends that should really worry business leaders.

The most obvious is that while those amongst the richest of British society trust the corporate world in large numbers, that is not true for the less well off. In fact, there is a “trust gap” between those who earn more than £100,000 (and over £650,000 liquid assets) a year at one end, 67% of whom say they trust business, and those who live in households with an income of less than £15,000 a year. Only 35% of them trust British companies.

“British companies have only convinced their wealthier users and customers to trust them, not the rest of the population”

The trust gap of 32 percentage points between rich and poor, is larger for UK business than for government (28 points) or the media (12 points).

Our analysis of the figures suggests British companies have only convinced their wealthier users and customers to trust them, not the rest of the population. The Barometer found that to win over this distrusting group, corporates have to do two things above all — make sure they are paying expected levels of tax and contribute to the greater good in society.

If business can respond, the opportunity is huge because of the correlation between trust and commercial success. Not only that, the public are clear in their expectations. A full 80% of respondents to the survey say they believe business should play a more active role in improving societal problems at the same time as making profits for investors.

Doing the right thing and acting responsibility, isn’t at odds with growing profitable business. The path to rebuilding trust in business and creating a positive reputation with customers lies in the role firms play in society at large. Business has convinced high earners that it can be trusted, the hard work, as we see it, is how it convinces a much larger group, those on lower incomes, that it is a force for good.


About the Edelman Trust Barometer

The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 16th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey was powered by research firm Edelman Berland and consisted of 20-minute online interviews conducted on October 13th – November 16th, 2015. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed more than 33,000 respondents with an oversample of 1,150 general population respondents ages 18 and over and 500 informed public respondents in the U.S. and China and 200 informed public respondents in all other countries representing 15 percent of the total population across 28 countries. All informed publics met the following criteria: ages 25–64, college-educated; household income in the top 25 percent for their age in their country; report significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy. The 2016 Trust Barometer UK Supplement was fielded from 11th – 13th January. The survey consists of 1,000 general online population with Informed Publics occurring naturally in the population sample. Additional boost samples of 250 low income households and 100 high net worth individuals have been included in the UK Supplement. For more information, visit



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