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We trust in business. People trust businesses more than governments, nonprofits, and the media, according to a survey.

According to a survey conducted by public relations firm Edelman, people around the world are more pessimistic about their economic prospects than ever before, and they trust business far more than other institutions such as governments, nonprofits, and the media in an increasingly divided world.

The online survey, conducted in 28 countries and released late Sunday to coincide with the World Economic Forum’s gathering of business elites and government leaders this week in Davos, Switzerland, shows that fewer people believe their family will be better off in five years.

Those who believe they will be better off fell to 40% from 50% last year, reaching an all-time low in 24 countries. This is because 89% are concerned about losing their job, 74% are concerned about inflation, 76% are concerned about climate change, and 72% are concerned about nuclear war.

According to the delman Trust Barometer, 62% of respondents view business as both competent and ethical, compared to 59% for nongovernmental organisations, 51% for governments, and 50% for the media. This was attributed to how businesses treated their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and their return to work, as well as many businesses vowing to leave Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

People still distrusted CEOs, government leaders, and journalists, but trusted their own corporate executives, coworkers, and neighbours. 76% of respondents trusted scientists the most.

“With increased trust in business comes higher-than-ever expectations of CEOs to be a leading voice on societal issues,” said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman. “By a six-to-one margin, respondents want businesses to be more involved in societal issues such as climate change, economic inequality, and workforce reskilling.”

Companies are under pressure to lead social change.
However, companies risk inciting controversy by addressing divisive social issues, according to 52% of respondents, who believe businesses cannot avoid politicisation when addressing divisive social issues.

People want companies to stand up for them, despite the uncertainty: 63% say they buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values.

The majority of respondents believe that businesses should do more, not less, to address climate change, economic inequality, and other issues.

According to the survey, this comes as social divisions have become entrenched, creating a polarised world in which people feel unable to overcome their differences or even willing to help others who do not share their beliefs.

Less than one-third of those polled said they would assist, live with, or work with someone who strongly disagrees with them. Argentina, Colombia, the United States, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden were identified as severely polarised, owing to distrust in government and a lack of shared identity.

People fear that if divisions are not addressed, the result will be worsening prejudice and discrimination, slower economic development, and street violence, according to the report.

More than 40% of those polled believe governments and businesses must collaborate to solve social problems, with the burden falling on the most trusted institution — business — to bring people together.

The majority of respondents (64%), agreed that companies that support politicians and media outlets that foster consensus would help increase civility and strengthen society.

From November 1 to November 28, the Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed more than 32,000 people online in 28 countries ranging from Argentina to Saudi Arabia to the United States.

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