2015 Edelman Trust Barometer Finds Overly Rapid Pace of Change in Business Innovation

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an alarming evaporation of trust across all institutions, reaching the lows of the Great Recession in 2009. Trust in government, business, media and NGOs in the general population is below 50 percent in two-thirds of countries, including the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan. Informed public respondents are nearly as distrustful, registering trust levels below 50 percent in half of the countries surveyed.

“There has been a startling decrease in trust across all institutions driven by the unpredictable and unimaginable events of 2014,” said Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman. “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.”

For the first time, the Barometer looked at trust and its link to innovation and found that trust issues are hindering acceptance of technological advancements. A majority of respondents believe innovation is happening too quickly (51 percent) and that it is being driven by greed (54 percent) and business growth imperatives (66 percent), while only some (24 percent) see it being done to make the world a better place. More than half (55 percent) feel business is not doing enough testing on new developments. Consumers also want stronger regulations of business (46 percent), yet across major industries surveyed, only half trust policy makers to develop and implement appropriate regulations.

“The pace of change has never been faster and innovation has become an even greater imperative for business success,” said Edelman. “Innovation should be a trust accelerator, but today it is not. To invent is no longer enough. There must be a new compact between company and individual, where companies demonstrate that innovations are safe based on independent research, provide both societal and personal benefit and are committed to the protection of customer data.”

The Barometer reveals a strong correlation between a country’s trust level and its willingness to accept innovation. The United Arab Emirates, India and Indonesia, the top three countries on the trust index, are the most accepting of innovation. Conversely, several European nations, including Germany, France and Spain, plus Japan and Korea, which are at the bottom of the trust index, are far less accepting of technological developments. Overall, developing markets are more open to innovation than developed (65 percent versus 44 percent).

Trust levels vary significantly based on the type of innovation. Trust is higher in developments in the technology, financial services and health industries, including electronic and mobile payments (69 percent) and personal health trackers (59 percent). However, innovations introduced in the energy and food sectors, such as hydraulic fracturing (47 percent) and genetically modified foods (32 percent), are viewed with far more skepticism. Trust in a particular industry sector does not assure confidence in that industry’s particular innovation. The food and beverage sector (67 percent) is one of the most trusted, yet only 35 percent are confident it can develop and implement genetically modified foods.

Respondents identified actions that would increase trust in an industry to implement innovations: making test results publicly available for review (80 percent), partnering with credible third parties, including academic institutions (75 percent), and running clinical trials or beta tests (71 percent).

“Trusted innovation can only be achieved when business adopts a new framework rooted in sharing information and fostering collaboration,” said Ben Boyd, president of Practices, Sectors and Offerings. “While developing innovations, business must invite open conversation and continually listen to stakeholders.”

This year signaled the end of an era of recovery of trust in business, as trust in that institution declined in two-thirds of the markets and is now below 50 percent in 14 countries, the worst showing since 2008. The largest drops occurred in Canada (15 points to 47 percent), Germany (12 points to 45 percent), Australia (11 points to 48 percent) and Singapore (10 points to 61 percent). This is highlighted by drops in the once impenetrable technology industry, which is still the most trusted but saw declines in trust in most countries for the first time.

The decline in trust in the CEO as a credible spokesperson continued for the third consecutive year, with trust levels now at 31 percent in developed markets. Globally, CEOs (43 percent) and government officials (38 percent) continue to be the least credible sources, lagging far behind academic or industry experts (70 percent) and a person like yourself (63 percent). In the developing world, CEO credibility trends thirty points higher at 61 percent.

Other key findings from the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer include:

  • Government remains the least trusted institution for the fourth consecutive year, with trust levels below 50 percent in 19 of 27 countries, including the U.S. (41 percent), U.K. (43 percent) and Japan (40 percent).
  • Media as an institution is distrusted by 60 percent of countries and for the first time, online search engines are now a more trusted source for general news and information (64 percent) than traditional media (62 percent).
  • Trust in NGOs declined for only the second time but remained the most trusted institution. In 19 of 27 countries, trust in NGOs fell or remained at equal levels to the previous year and saw dramatic drops in the U.K. (16 points) and China (12 points).
  • There is a tangible impact of trust. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents refuse to buy products and services from a company they do not trust, while 58 percent will criticize them to a friend or colleague. Conversely, 80 percent chose to buy products from companies they trusted, with 68 percent recommending those companies to a friend.
  • A majority of respondents (81 percent) believe a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates, while three-quarters (75 percent) feel a company can be more profitable by finding ways to solve social and community problems.

About Edelman

Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm, with more than 5,000 employees in 65 cities, as well as affiliates in more than 35 cities. Edelman was named one of Advertising Age’s “A-List Agencies” in both 2010 and 2011, and an “Agency to Watch” in 2014; Adweek’s “2011 PR Agency of the Year;” PRWeek’s “2011 Large PR Agency of the Year;” and The Holmes Report’s “2013 Global Agency of the Year” and its 2012 “Digital Agency of the Year.” Edelman has been awarded seven Cannes Lions including the Grand Prix for PR in 2014. Edelman was named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Advertising Age in 2010 and 2012 and among Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Edelman owns specialty firms Edelman Berland (research), Edelman Deportivo (creative), Blue (advertising), BioScience Communications (medical communications) and agency Edelman Significa (Brazil).

About the Edelman Trust Barometer 

The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 15th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey was powered by research firm Edelman Berland and consisted of 20-minute online interviews conducted on October 13th – November 24th, 2014. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer online survey sampled 27,000 general population respondents with an oversample of 6,000 informed publics ages 25-64 across 27 markets. All informed publics met the following criteria: college-educated; household income in the top quartile for their age in their country; read or watch business/news media at least several times a week; follow public policy issues in the news at least several times a week. For more information, visit www.edelman.com/trust2015

For more information, contact:
Michael Bush