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CSR lessons from the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer


The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer was published earlier this year and, again, contains a host of valuable CSR lessons for businesses.

According to Edelman’s analysis, public trust is in crisis.

But there is some good news for the world of business.

Asked which institutions they trusted to ‘do the right thing’, 52% of respondents said business, virtually on par with NGOs. Media and government were both dis-trusted.

When it came to rating the attributes that are important in building trust in a company, 62% of people put treating employees well at the top of their list. 56% said paying its fair share of taxes and 56% said engaging in ethical business practices.

Furthermore, 52% of people said that working to protect and improve the environment is important in building trust, with 46% saying that creating programmes that positively impact the local community, and addressing society’s needs through a company’s everyday business, both have an important role in trust.

Three-quarters of people agree that companies can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where they operate, and increasingly expect businesses to lead.

Sustainability and CSR are important to your customers

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer findings reveal how activities linked to sustainability and CSR can help to enhance trust and, by extension, improve sales – because B2B and B2C customers all buy from company’s they trust

According to the Ipsos MORI Global Trends 2017 report (see our blog recent here) 68% of people believe that the most successful brands will be those that make the most positive contribution to society beyond just providing good services and products; and 67% of people agree that it has become more important that the brands they choose make a positive contribution to society.

Together, these two global surveys are pointing to the same thing: customers appreciate company’s that pay attention to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

They like to feel like they’re making a difference in the world by exercising their purchasing discretion and buying from businesses with shared morals, and companies that fail to see this link will eventually fail to win new business.

Trust: hard won, easily lost

Most of us know that it takes time and effort to earn trust but that it can be lost at a stroke.

So what does the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer tell us about what businesses need to avoid doing if they want to maintain public trust?

Well, asked what actions businesses could take that would further damage trust, respondents said:

1. Pay bribes to government officials to win contracts

2. Pay executives hundreds of times more that workers

3. Move profits to other countries to avoid taxes

4. Overcharge for products that people need to live

5. Reduce costs by lowering product quality

These are most likely to apply to large, multinational corporates that operate in several jurisdictions, but the cross-cutting theme that emerges is one of fairness – and that applies to all businesses, regardless of size, sector or location.

It’s only fair that employees are able to earn a decent wage, it’s only fair that companies should be expected to take care not to adversely impact the environment around them, and it’s only fair that they should support the communities that support them.

People expect businesses to behave fairly, and trust them more when they do. Sustainability and CSR are expressions of fairness that your customers want to see.

We hope you found this article thoughtful and insightful – if you did, please help us share it and let us know what you thought of it in the comments. And, if you’d like to build greater trust in your organisation by improving your sustainability and CSR performance, [email protected]

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