Barometer reveals trust is essential to innovation

There has been a global decline in trust over the last year, and the number of countries with trusted institutions has fallen to an all-time low among the informed public. Trust issues hinder acceptance of technological advancements and stifle innovation.

Edelman_TBToday I’m going to share the findings of an annual global study into trust, which make fascinating reading and will equip you to have conversations with your stakeholders about its importance.

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an alarming evaporation of trust across all institutions, reaching the lows of the Great Recession in 2009.

It shows there’s a strong correlation between a country’s trust level and its willingness to accept innovation (Tweet this).

Edelman’s 15th exploration of trust has been released today after examining the views of 33,000 people. 27,000 General Public and 6,000 Informed Public respondents in 27 countries around the world were surveyed on their trust in the institutions of government, media, business and NGOs.

Trust in government, business, media and NGOs in the general population is below 50 per cent in two-thirds of countries, including the US, UK, Germany and Japan. Informed public respondents are nearly as distrustful, registering trust levels below 50 per cent in half of the countries surveyed.

For the first time, the Barometer looked at trust and its link to innovation and found that trust is hindering acceptance of technological advancements. (Tweet this)

Trust A majority of respondents believe: innovation is happening too quickly (51 per cent), it is being driven by greed (54 per cent) and business growth imperatives (66 per cent).

Only (24 per cent) see it being done to make the world a better place. More than half (55 per cent) feel business is not doing enough testing on new developments.

Consumers also want stronger regulations of business (46 per cent), yet across major industries surveyed, only half trust policy makers to develop and implement appropriate regulations.

“There has been a startling decrease in trust across all institutions driven by the unpredictable and unimaginable events of 2014,” says Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman. “The spread of Ebola in West Africa; the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, plus two subsequent air disasters; the arrests of top Chinese Government officials; the foreign exchange rate rigging by six global banks; and numerous data breaches, most recently at Sony Pictures by a sovereign nation, have shaken confidence.”

What is trust?

Trust is a forward-facing metric of stakeholder expectation. It is an asset that institutions must understand and properly build in order to be successful in today’s complex world.

Countries with higher trust levels overall also show a greater willingness to trust new business innovations. (Tweet this)

For the first time since the end of the Great Recession, trust in business faltered in the last year, signaling the finale of an era of recovery for business.

The study also looked at trust around the worldtrust across industries and how to build trust.

Why does it matter?

Building trust is essential to successfully bringing new products and services to market, and building trust in new business innovations requires that companies demonstrate clear personal and societal benefits, behave with integrity and engage with customers and stakeholders throughout the process.

This isn’t a soft subject and you can clearly see from the study not only how trust is made (and broken), but its impact.

Trust is built through specific attributes, which can be organised into five performance clusters:

  1. integrity
  2. engagement
  3. products and services
  4. purpose
  5. operations.

EngagementOf these clusters, the Trust Barometer reveals that integrity is most important, followed closely by engagement.

As in years past, areas such as excellence in operations or products and services, while important, are simply what is expected.

The trust-building opportunity for business, therefore, lies squarely in the area of integrity and engagement (Tweet this).

These areas encompass actions such as having ethical business functions, taking responsibility to address issues or crises, having transparent and open business practices, listening to customer needs and feedback, treating employees well, placing customers ahead of profit and communicating frequently on the state of the business — the very qualities also evidenced to build trust in innovation. (Tweet this)

Why is this important?

Trust is also an important factor in driving market acceptance of new business innovations. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer finds that more than half of the global informed public believe that the pace of development and change in business today is too fast, that business innovation is driven by greed and money rather than a desire to improve people’s lives and that there is not enough government regulation of many industry sectors.

Do you agree with those findings?

Other key findings were:

  • Government remains the least trusted institution for the fourth consecutive year, with trust levels below 50 per cent in 19 of 27 countries, including the U.S. (41 per cent), U.K. (43 per cent) and Japan (40 per cent).
  • Media as an institution is distrusted by 60 per cent of countries and for the first time, online search engines are now a more trusted source for general news and information (64 per cent) than traditional media (62 per cent).
  • Trust in NGOs declined for only the second time but remained the most trusted institution. In 19 of 27 countries, trust in NGOs fell or remained at equal levels to the previous year and saw dramatic drops in the UK (16 points) and China (12 points).
  • There is a tangible impact of trust. Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of respondents refuse to buy products and services from a company they do not trust, while 58 per cent will criticize them to a friend or colleague. Conversely, 80 per cent chose to buy products from companies they trusted, with 68 per cent recommending those companies to a friend.
  • A majority of respondents (81 per cent) believe a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates, while three-quarters (75 per cent) feel a company can be more profitable by finding ways to solve social and community problems.

Does that resonate with you? Want to know more? You can view all the results via SlideShare and below plus view the Executive Summary:

UK results

Further reading

I’ve blogged about the Edelman Trust Barometer for the past few years and find the data a useful insight into not only how people perceive organisations and governments, but to understand and map trends and shifts.

There’s a lot to read and it’s worth doing so, particularly around how to build trust.

You can view my articles on the 2014 results here and 2013 results here.

What do you think of the 2015 results? Do they ring true for you? As ever you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

First published on All Things IC blog 20 January 2015.

Post author: Rachel Miller


2015 Edelman Trust Barometer: Executive Summary


  1. Paul Osgood says:

    Interesting analysis of trust. And so what are the implications for employers and their relationship with employees?

    First and foremost the apparent lack of trust that the general public express here is deeply embedded in the general public that companies actually employ – their employees. So does this translate into the workplace? Do we see employees failing to embrace innovation? Or being resistant to change? I think the answer is yes and no.

    I see that the end of the recession is probably the biggest driver of confidence and trust in employees. They have now moved out from a position of hunkering down to survive economic perils and now look out at their own employers as the providers of opportunity (and innovation!). Alternatively, they are looking outside and comparing the opportunities elsewhere. That’s the challenge and perhaps the problem created by this general lack of trust recorded here. Do employees trust their employer to deliver or is the grass greener on the other side?

    The implications for internal communications are again in the realm of engagement. How do we support and develop engagement that truly delivers trust and loyalty that in turn deliver superior business performance?

  2. Hi Paul, thank you for your comment.

    You make some interesting points and I think you’re right in the implications for IC being around engagement. That was certainly the findings this year – coupled with integrity – and I expect to see that expectation continue and grow in years to come.

    The peer-to-peer trust continues to be vital for IC. It’s growing in importance and I also expect that to be a trend that lasts and expect to see trust in leadership continue to dip.


  3. Claire Murray says:

    What a pity that our nations have so little trust in their leaders. Well justified though, there’s not much being done by those same leaders to instill a feeling of trust by the people.

    I definitely agree, mainly from past experience, that internal communications is vital in gaining trust, and vice versa.

  4. […] Barometer reveals trust is essential to innovation – The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an alarming evaporation of trust across all institutions, reaching the lows of the Great Recession in 2009. Read all about it and don’t miss the cool infographic at the bottom. via @AllthingsIC […]

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