Forum Institutional

Trust barometer: 4 steps to rebuilding trust 

The findings of the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer paint a concerning picture.

The findings of the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer paint a concerning picture. Image: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Society and Equity

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer is the 23rd edition of the trust and credibility survey.
  • A lack of trust - driven by economic anxiety, disinformation, mass-class divide and leadership failures - has left us polarized.
  • The report's authors suggest 4 steps as a way forward to restoring trust.

The findings of the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer paint a concerning picture. Economic optimism has fallen dramatically, with just 40% of respondents saying they and their families will be better off in five years. This represents a 10-point decline from 2022, and down from 53% in 2019.

Distrust has also fueled polarization, Edelman reports. Few people would help, live near, or work with someone who disagreed with their view on something.

The survey covered more than 32,000 respondents from 28 countries.

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How is the World Economic Forum promoting equity in the workplace?

Business seen as competent and ethical

Business is the only institution seen as competent and ethical, the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer found.

Indeed, amongst those who feel most polarized, employers are seen as the only trusted institution.

But, businesses are set to feel the pressure from consumers and employees to stand up for them. Among employees, 69% sad that having societal impact is a strong expectation or deal break when considering a job.

However, there's a cautionary note from the report. While more might be demanded of business on societal issues, there's a risk for businesses of being politicized when engaging on contentious issues.

Turning trust around

So what can be done? The report highlights 4 steps as a 'way forward'.

1. Business is expected to act

As the most trusted institution, business should use this to inform debate and help deliver solutions on a range of issues from climate, skills to diversity, equity and inclusion.

2. Collaborate with government

By working together, business and government can help build consensus and collaborate to deliver results.

3. Restore economic optimism

To address the mass-class divide and the ongoing cycle of polarization, the report says the investment is needed in fair compensation, training, and local communities.

4. Advocate for truth

Be sure to be a source of reliable information, promote civil discourse, and hold those who spread false information to account.

Have you read?

The risk of polarization

This year's World Economic Global Risks Report also warns of the threat of the erosion of social cohesion and societal polarization. It's seen as the 5th most severe threat over the next two years and the 7th most severe over the next 10.

Global Risks Report 2023 Top 10 Risks
Global Risks Report 2023: Top 10 Risks Image: World Economic Forum

It is the need for cooperation and collaboration in the face of this polarization that has informed the theme of Davos 2023, 'Cooperation in a Fragmented World', as it brings together leaders from around the world to find solutions to the multiple challenges and crises we currently face.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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