This is one of the headline findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2012 launched today (24th January 2012). I agree! For those who are not aware of it, this is the 12th annual global survey of over 30,000 respondents in 25 countries about who they trust and why. Details are available at http://trust.edelman.com/
Here are a few top of the head observations on how it resonates with our Responsible Innovation report and ‘What the public wants to know about company use of innovative technologies – an analysis of 15+ public dialogues on emerging technologies. (Take a look here at this Youtube video presentation on Prezi (you can turn the sound down if you don’t want to listen to me!) or an outline report here (Professional design underway!)
Responsible Innovation and Trust
Companies are good innovators of new products, services or ideas
The good news for companies is 46% think that is important, and 41 % think that they also deliver that. This shows there is confidence in the ability of companies to innovate and to deliver against stakeholder expectations. But then it gets more complicated…..
Trust is going to be increasingly based on societal engagement factors says Edelman. It must be based on listening to customers, and responding to social or environmental needs. There is a big gap between what customers feel is important in this area and company performance. (62% think it is the most important, but only 28% think companies do it well.)
Our work also indicates that without engaging with their stakeholders, and delivering relevant products, public confidence in innovation could be eroded. Public and stakeholder expectations indicate time and again that innovative technologies should be used for social benefit and that the views of customers and other stakeholders are essential to developing products that deliver that.
Governments main job re business is to protect the public from irresponsible business practices
Stakeholders don’t feel that governments regulate business enough and that their most important role in relation to business is to protect consumers from irresponsible business practices. The drivers of such irresponsible behaviour are seen to be poor management, unethical business practices and shortcuts leading to poor quality.
This also resonates with our findings where we see the public not particularly trusting government to protect them from irresponsible business practice, and looking for independent oversight of companies (and actually governments) to give them confidence in the safety and effectiveness of new technologies.
Academics, technical experts and ‘a regular employee or a person like me’ are the most trusted
To me this indicates a need for credible, evidence based information and the need to cut through the corporate sales patter and get to what really matters. This strongly resonates also with our top line finding
‘Be honest, be open and don’t duck the tricky issues’. Nice to know we aren’t out of kilter with the world!
Practice Radical Transparency
‘Making the system more transparent’ is proposed by the Edelman research in relation to the financial sector, but is seen as equally applicable to business in general. This was one of the more surprising findings of our work – that the public has a strong residual trust in the general safety of products, but wants to feel more confident that companies have robust systems in place to ensure they have thought through the potential for harm to people and the environment and have plans in place to put things right when (not if!) they do go wrong.
We rarely see this on company websites or in social reports. It is our belief that the ‘radical transparency’ this report calls for will include the health, safety and environmental systems in place to ensure company products are safe and effective, particularly where innovative new technologies, such as biotech and nanotechnologies and synthetic biology, are used.
Our soon to be launched report ‘Building Confidence in Innovative Technologies – what stakeholders expect and how companies can respond’ will go into more detail about what different stakeholders expect and how companies can respond to increasing expectations on transparency about their use of innovative technologies. Drop me an email at email@example.com if you would like a copy or to be invited to our launch.