You are a business leader. Are you a trusted business leader? 

According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer survey report, which was reported on by Scott Van Voorhis in Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, of the four sectors covered by the survey, business, government, media and NGOs, business was the only one to earn a score of at least 60%, which is required to place a sector in the “trusted” category. Business’s 2022 score was 61%. That is the good news.

There is other news worth considering, however. First, trust in business has slipped since May of 2020, down from 61%. Second, over 60% of the respondents said that companies should place greater emphasis on the interests of customers; 60% said they should prioritize employees; and under half said they should prioritize shareholder interest more. The same respondents said that, in fact, companies prioritize shareholders above all, then customers, and employees in third place.

In the US, the gap between the results from high-income and low-income respondents was marked. The trust score given by low income earners was 23 points below that given by high income respondents. A majority of respondents also said that CEOs and businesses should take positions on and impact income inequality, climate change, racism, and the disruption to workers caused by automation. 

My take-way from these results is that businesses have an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the fact that they are trusted, and to look for opportunities to positively differentiate themselves:

  1. In a competitive employment environment, by demonstrably and verifiably moving employees up in their priority list, and
  2. By emphasizing social and environmental factors in product design, creating design wins that enhance their competitive advantage.

Alternatively, businesses can continue to place shareholder interests first, and experience an erosion of trust. Businesses need not choose between shareholder interests, on the one hand, or social and environmental interests on the other. It is not a competitive, zero-sum game. If a company prioritizes employees so it comes out ahead in the war for talent, and it values customers and designs products they trust, shareholders will win, too.

Contact Clear Strategy Co. if you want to talk about charting a path toward a win-win future as a trusted business partner and leader. And if our blogs are helpful, interesting, or infuriating but make you think, sign up to receive them directly as soon as they come out.

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