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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Edelman Report: U.S. citizens trust institutions less than in 2010

According to the 2011 Edelman trust barometer, American citizens trust institution is less than they trusted them in 2010.

The report stated that only 46% of people in the U.S. trust businesses, compared to 41% in Russia. Only 40% of the people surveyed in the United States trusted government, which is only 1% higher than Russia. This year, 38% of Americans trusted media; this year, only 27% of people surveyed trust media.

According to the report, academic experts remain the most trusted source for telling if an institution is reliable. People's trust in CEOs increased 29%, but surprisingly, survey respondents said that regular people are less trustworthy by 7%. That's less than government officials, NGO representatives and CEOs.

From a Corporate Standpoint

To me, the most interesting part of the report was that U.S. citizens expect companies to put social value above profits. 85% of people surveyed in the U.S. believe that companies should put societies interests above their shareholder's profits.

I was completely surprised when I saw this because my understanding of U.S. business culture is that profit is king. I knew that a prominent corporate responsibility program was important for a company to maintain a good image and a good level of trust, but I always assumed Americans expected businesses to put their profits ahead of their contributions to society.

It does make sense that a business would gain a lot of trust if they put the values of society above their own profits, but I never thought that this would be an expectation of the business to gain trust.

Not so surprisingly, the U.S. had a relatively low percentage of respondents who said that governments need to regulate businesses to ensure social responsibility by those businesses (61%)..

Another thing that did not really surprise me was that transparency is becoming more and more important part of maintaining trust with corporations. With the rise of social media, the Internet and quicker methods to disseminate information, corporations are less able to keep their dirty laundry hidden.

So is it worth it for business that the social values above their own profits? That may vary from business to business, but the real question is can business afford to keep losing trust?

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