Responding to Today’s Crisis of Trust: Not a Moment to Lose

Published on January 10, 2018

Citizens Mean Business, and Companies Know It

“Trust is the bedrock of our evolution, and yet people don’t trust leadership anywhere today,” said Fabian Dattner. The voice of collective wisdom emanating from the panel discussion was clear and urgent: businesses must act now to alter a pervasive climate of distrust. Making socially responsible choices for the general good is no longer enough – they need to rekindle trust and give people the sense of purpose and meaning they are demanding. Companies must become agents for change.

A Crisis of Unprecedented Proportions

“Trust is at the heart of every business relationship, and it has collapsed everywhere,” said Moderator Marion Darrieutort. Not just trust but leadership itself is in crisis, added Dattner. After interviewing hundreds of working Australians, she concluded that people are asking for meaning, and leaders are failing to give it. The crisis of trust has reached such proportions that no leader can ignore it.

The 40% Disconnect

Edelman's recent survey of citizens in the UK and France showing that only 35% of respondents say they trust companies to tell the truth. At the same time, 75% think it is the job of businesses to make the world a better place. Jon Duschinsky pointed out the glaring disconnect: people are looking to companies to bring about change, and at the same time they do not trust them to do it. Referring to “the 40% that is the profit margin of the future,” he gave businesses three pieces of advice to seize on the opportunity it represents:

  1. Stand for something you believe in and make sacrifices for it;
  2. Create opportunities for others to stand and take action with you;
  3. Give them the tools to be the mouthpiece for the change you’d like to see.

Abandon Top-down Approaches

Every panelist stressed the importance of seeking out feedback and listening to people. They warned that change will not happen through a top-down approach. “Find out what puts fire in their guts and gets them out of bed in the morning,” said Duschinsky, adding, “this is not about you,” but about empowering people and allowing them to be true to themselves and their need for purpose, which is essential to ensuring their quality of life.

Dattner also underlined the urgent need to rebuild trust by sitting down with teams and accepting critical feedback no matter how hard it is to hear. Pedro Tarak encouraged business leaders to assess their progress and measure their impact. “The new bar of competitiveness is not to be the best in the world, but the best for the world” he said.

The Time to Act Is Now and You Have No Choice

While Tarak called on businesses to develop their “muscle of systemic pragmatism,” Dattner urged them to act in the pocket of influence where they find themselves, saying “The question is not ‘What should we do?’ but ‘How should we do what we know we need to do?’” Duschinksy added simply, “Do it now – you have no choice.”