The Edelman Trust Barometer™: Why is measuring trust important for business?

Trust. It’s a small word that has huge impact – in life and in business. And, according to data from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, “the global trust crisis is deepening.”

The Edelman Trust Barometer™ is an annual global trust and credibility survey. It measures trust in four societal institutions—government, business, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and media. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer covers data from 28 countries.

In this week’s blog post, we talk with Megan Spoore, General Manager, Edelman Calgary, about this year’s Trust Barometer.


In a nutshell, what’s the Edelman Trust Barometer? And why is measuring trust important?


The Trust Barometer is our annual study of trust and credibility. Currently in its 20th year, the Trust Barometer is a valuable tool that helps institutions understand public perceptions, and it shows where there are gaps in trust. The results provide clear insights on what actions organizations can take to help build trust.

Trust is critically important for business. It directly impacts the bottom line – trusted organizations are more likely to attract institutional investments and their stock prices have stronger performance. They also have greater social acceptance, which is critical for pipeline companies. And they have higher resilience to survive a crisis.


What’s changed over the 20 years of the study?


In the past, we saw higher levels of trust for leaders and institutions – a higher credibility for authority. Now, we’re more likely to trust people in our own circle, such as our peers, and others who are more like us.

In recent years, we’ve also seen a growing unease around the quality of information we are presented with. A rise in the concept of “fake news” is undermining our collective sense of what’s true and what’s not. We see this reflected in Trust data about the COVID-19 pandemic, which shows that there is no single, trusted source of information.

Currently, the study shows that Canadians are generally feeling uncertain. Only 35 per cent of Canadians feel their family will be better off in five years’ time, and 53 per cent of Canadian respondents feel the system is failing them. This shows up as higher uncertainty about the future, including concerns about job losses.


What are the implications for the pipeline industry? And what must pipeline companies do to address trust gaps?


The results show members of the public believe most businesses are competent, but not ethical. That has big implications for pipelines because the data also clearly shows what Canadians expect and how companies can act to overcome skepticism.

Here’s a quick snapshot of findings that could make a difference for business:

  • 91 per cent of respondents said stakeholders (employees, communities, customers), not shareholders, are most important for long-term company success.
  • 80 per cent want CEOs to take the lead on change, and not wait for governments to tell them what to do.
  • And 89 per cent want their CEOs to make their voices heard on important issues in society.

That’s a callout to Canadian businesses to demonstrate – by their actions – that they are benefiting society in positive ways, speaking up on key issues, and acting with integrity. But that’s not enough. Businesses also need to use their communication channels effectively to let their stakeholders know what specific actions they’re taking to be trusted and responsible.

CEPA members value the Edelman Trust Barometer as an important input to continuous improvement. Thanks to ongoing collaboration and best practices our members track and report on critical performance measures, including safety, environmental protection, and socio-economic contributions. This is part of the pipeline industry’s commitment to transparency and accountability.

About Pipelines thanks Megan Spoore for her important contribution to this blog post.