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Trust in business has declined to GFC levels in 2015

Technology & Data

Trust in business has declined to GFC levels in 2015


Australians’ trust in institutions has dropped below 50%, the lowest since the 2009 global financial crisis, according to Edelman Australia’s 2015 Trust Barometer.


The Trust Barometer puts Australians’ trust in business, government, media and NGOs at 48%, an 11-percentage-point drop from 2014’s 59%.

Two thirds of countries surveyed are in a similar situation, with the US, UK, Germany and Japan also showing less than 50% trust in institutions.

Edelman president and CEO, Richard Edelman, puts the negative sentiment partly down to the string of disasters that occurred across the world during 2014.

“The spread of Ebola in West Africa; the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, plus two subsequent air disasters; the arrests of top Chinese Government officials; the foreign exchange rate rigging by six global banks; and numerous data breaches, most recently at Sony Pictures by a sovereign nation, have shaken confidence.”


Trust in business to innovate

Trust in business this year dropped most dramatically in Australia, (11 points to 48%), Canada (15 points to 47%), Germany (12 points to 45%), and Singapore (10 points to 61%).

Australians are wary of innovation, showing tough attitudes towards it:

  • 53% believe innovation is happening too quickly,
  • 72% believe it is driven by greed,
  • 74% believe it is driven by business growth imperatives,
  • 14% believe it is aiming to make the world a better place,
  • 57% believe business is not testing new developments enough, and
  • 45% want stronger regulation.

Levels of trust differ between types of developments:

  • Electronic and mobile payments: 55%,
  • personal health trackers: 48%,
  • hydraulic fracturing (energy and food sector): 35%, and
  • genetically modified foods: 34%.

Respondents to the study said the following actions would increase their trust in an industry’s ability to implement innovations:

  • Making test results publicly available for review (77%),
  • partnering with credible third parties, including academic institutions (69%), and
  • running clinical trials or beta tests (64%).


Trust in business

The study found trust differs widely between industries.

Top three most trusted industries:

  1. Technology (74%),
  2. consumer electronics (72%),
  3. food and beverage (72%), and

Top three least trusted industries:

  1. Media (41%),
  2. chemicals (45%), and
  3. energy (49%).


57% of respondents said they refuse to buy products and services from companies they do not trust, while 76% choose to buy products from companies they trust.

81% of respondents believe that companies can take action to both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in their communities.

75% believe companies could be more profitable by actively tackling social and community problems.


Trust in spokespeople

The decline in trust in a CEO as a credible business spokesperson declined for the third year in a row, with 33% of Australians placing trust in CEOs.

Trust in spokespeople differs depending on their position:

  1. Academic or industry experts (66%),
  2. company technical experts (61%),
  3. people ‘like yourself’ (55%),
  4. government officials (37%), and
  5. CEOs (33%).


Trust in media amid fragmentation

The Trust Barometer also found online search engines have overtaken traditional media in Australians’ trust rankings, with 62% of people trusting them compared with 55% trusting traditional media.

The number of people who place trust in social media as a source of general news and information has grown by 16 percentage points since 2013, to 34%.

On social networking sites, people place varying levels of trust in sources:

  • Their family and friends (70%),
  • companies creating their own content (49%),
  • journalists (42%), and
  • celebrities (23%).


Michelle Herbison

Assistant editor, Marketing Magazine.

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