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Edelman Trust Barometer 2020: A Majority Believe Capitalism is Failing Society and Look to Business Leaders to Drive Social Change

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 56 percent of those surveyed believe that capitalism in its current form is now doing more harm than good in the world, and that democracy is becoming a less effective system of government. The survey also found that 57 percent of respondents worry about losing the respect and dignity they once enjoyed in their country. Less than one in three people in developed markets feel that they will be better off in five years. And, 83 percent of employees globally are worried about job loss due to automation, a looming recession, lack of training, cheaper foreign competition, immigration and the gig economy.

More than 70 percent of employees say they want an opportunity to have a positive impact on society, but none of the institutions had a vision for the future that captivated a majority of respondents. Only 35 percent indicated faith in the vision of government or media; 41 percent for business; and 45 percent for NGOs.

Less than half of those surveyed trust the very wealthy or government and religious leaders, but more than half (51 percent) trust CEOs. Additionally, 58 percent believe business is the most trusted institution, taking the lead role in global governance, and 76 percent believe that CEOs need to speak up and lead—up from 65 percent in 2019. They cited equal pay prejudice and discrimination; training for the jobs of tomorrow; the environment; personal data; sexual harassment; and fake news are areas where CEOs can lead.

Business was ranked the highest in terms of competence (delivering on goals), with a 54-point edge over government. However, while government is perceived as incompetent and unethical, it is trusted more than twice as much as business to protect the environment and close the income inequality gap.

“Business has leapt into the void left by populist and partisan government,” wrote Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “It can no longer be business as usual, with an exclusive focus on shareholder returns. With 73 percent of employees saying they want the opportunity to change society, and nearly two-thirds of consumers identifying themselves as belief-driven buyers, CEOs understand that their mandate has changed.”

This shift in corporate social responsibility is reflected in a new statement of purpose by the Business Roundtable, which committed the CEO signatories to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders—customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders. At the World Economic Forum meeting held this week in Davos, Switzerland, “stakeholder capitalism” is the major theme and aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include economic, social, and environmental targets to reach by 2030 agreed by 193 country governments at the UN in 2015.

Salesforce Chairman and Co-CEO Marc Benioff has long advocated for a new capitalism, a stakeholder capitalism in which business leaders to take responsibility for the well-being of all stakeholders and address today’s social and environmental challenges.

In his new book, Trailblazer, Benioff wrote: “As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to reshape our lives, it’s no longer an option to do well without doing good. In the face of the inevitable disruption ahead, we need to get to a place of what I call radical trust, where employees and other stakeholders no longer need to demand that companies apply their values for good. Empowered by radical trust, every business can nurture a values-based culture and become a powerful platform for change.

The survey found that 87 percent say that customers, employees, and communities are more important than shareholders to a company’s long-term success.

The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed more than 33,000 people across 28 countries. Other findings include:

  • 65 percent believe the pace of technological change is too fast.
  • 76 percent say they worry about fake news being used as a weapon.
  • 57 percent of respondents don’t believe the media does a good job of differentiating opinion and fact.
  • 75 percent of respondents ranked technology as the most trusted sector but it declined four percentage points from the previous year.

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