NEW YORK: Public relations firm Edelman says the 14-point gap between business and government trusting each other is now the largest since it began the series in 2001.
Following a survey of 33,000 people in 27 countries, the company says the trust divide is over 20 points in nearly half - including 21 points in the U.S., India (26 points) and Brazil (36 points).
"In a few nations, the divide is as much as 40 points. This is a profound evolution in the landscape of trust from 2009, where business had to partner with government to regain trust, to today where business must lead the debate for change," it says.
The barometer says trust in government fell globally four points to an historic low (44 percent) in 2013, making it the least trusted institution for the third consecutive year. The drop in government trust was even more dramatic on a country level, falling in the U.S. (16 points to 37 percent), France (17 points to 32 percent) and Hong Kong (18 points to 45 percent). Among the general population trust in government fell Spain 14 percent in Spain, 18 percent in Italy and 20 percent in France.
However according to Richard Edelman, company president and CEO, it would be a "monumental error in judgment" if businesses interpret the new data as an opportunity to push for deregulation.
"Our research indicates a reputation hangover for business from the Great Recession of 2008. Events of the past 12 months, including a record fine of $13 billion for J.P. Morgan on the sale of troubled mortgage securities, the largest ever bankruptcy in Latin America with the failure of Eike Batista's EBX deep-water oil drilling firm, and food scandals involving antibiotics in the poultry in China, have renewed concerns about business' ability to self-regulate."
Edelman says there is an opportunity for companies to make their case for change, with 84 percent of respondents believing corporations can pursue self-interest while doing good work for society. To this end, he suggests CEOs become "Chief Engagement Officers" and use a public platform for change – rather than relying on lobbying regulators or elected officials.
"Go on tour, engaging in debate with critics, informing media of all stripes, from mainstream to social. Enable your partners, from NGOs to academics, by briefing them regularly. Foster a culture that supports employees speaking out, amplifying the engagement and creating mass movement," he declares.
"We strongly urge business to take the chance to redefine value as being also about values, to connect with its stakeholders in a deeper manner by explaining the economic, societal and environmental context in which it seeks to operate. Trust will be conveyed to those companies and industries that recognize the need to move beyond transactional thinking toward better understanding of the tangible actions that will solve the issues we face," he concludes.