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Australians trust CEOs to tackle social issues

February 7, 2018

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, a global survey of people across 28 countries, has revealed a number of findings which further highlight the increasingly important role shared value strategies can play within Australian organisations.

The key findings highlighted new expectations of corporate leaders with almost two-thirds of Australians (65 per cent) believing that CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than wait for government to impose it.

The global survey also revealed trust in Australian government, business, media and non-government organisations has declined for the second consecutive year, with all four institutions classified as ‘distrusted’ for the first time since 2013.

Shared value, which focuses on enhancing a company’s competitiveness while improving social and environmental conditions in the regions where they operate, could provide a framework for CEOs to use when taking the lead on change.

Despite the decline of trust in institutions, the Trust Barometer revealed a strong resurgence in credibility of individual voices of authority. CEO credibility recorded a huge 50 per cent improvement, from 26 per cent to 39 per cent, while the credibility of a board of directors increased from 24 per cent to 34 per cent. Contrastingly, the credibility of ‘a person like yourself’ fell from 56 per cent to 50 per cent.

The findings also revealed Australians are gravely concerned about the country’s current system of governance, with a majority (56 per cent) saying that government is the most broken institution, compared to only 6 per cent who say business is the most broken.

“The decreasing Trust in government is a result of another unsettled year for Australian politics. Government uncertainty over energy supply, citizenship and the royal banking commission, in addition to continued infighting across the political spectrum has resulted in a nation that unfortunately, largely does not trust its government,” said Steve Spurr, CEO of Edelman Australia.

“It is deeply troubling that a majority of Australians believe their government is broken, however there is also an opportunity for businesses to stand up for the public on issues they believe are not being addressed.”

“Corporate Australia’s strong and unified support for the marriage equality campaign demonstrated the institution’s ability to be a driver of societal change, and may have raised public expectations for future advocacy.”

Australia’s overall Trust Index score is now in the bottom third globally, while together with Singapore, Australia is one of just two nations to register consecutive declines across all four key institutions. Trust in government declined from 37 to 35 per cent, business from 48 to 45 per cent, media from 32 to 31 per cent, and NGOs from 52 to 48 per cent.