The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: California depicts the Bay Area as a region in flux, buffeted by the ever-rising costs of living, growing employee activism and a breadth of pressing social and economic issues, yet buoyed by the continued dominance of the technology sector.

Golden State Worriers

California residents are increasingly concerned about the breadth of issues the state is facing: 62 percent believe that the best days of living in California are behind them.

In particular, local issues weigh heavily. More than half of Californians are considering leaving the state due to the high cost of living. That number is even higher among millennials (63 percent). Ninety-one percent of respondents consider homelessness to be a serious issue, 89 percent worry about the lack of affordable healthcare, and 83 percent are concerned about the growing inequality between the rich and the poor.

Residents are looking to the private sector to help address these societal issues; 66 percent of Californians believe that business leaders should be doing more to improve the state. Expectations are even higher for the technology industry, with 81 percent saying that tech companies have an obligation to improve local issues.

The Tech Sector: It’s Complicated

The tech industry continues to dominate the landscape: 71 percent of Californians and 85 percent of Bay Area residents see it as fueling their local economy. As such, it’s no surprise that technology remains the state’s most-trusted industry.

However, people are increasingly aware that its influence is a mixed blessing. Sixty-seven percent of Californians think business leaders in the technology industry should be doing more to improve the state at a local level, while only 44 percent of Californians feel that technology will create more jobs than it will kill.

In this climate, demand for regulation is climbing, with 68 percent of Californians claiming that the industry has been under regulated, an increase of six percentage points from 2018.

A New Employee Contract

“My employer” is the most trusted institution across California – trusted by 74 percent of Californians, it is significantly more trusted than media (38 percent), business (45 percent), and the state government (43 percent). More than two-thirds (78 percent) of Californians see how a company treats its employees as one of the best indicators of its trustworthiness.

No group is more vocal about the need for technology companies to change than their own employees, who have strong opinions on where their employers should focus their efforts. Eighty-six percent of tech workers believe tech companies have an obligation to improve local issues, 85 percent think they should be addressing societal issues and 75 percent want business leaders in the tech industry to do more to improve California.

Moreover, they are not afraid to take a stand when employers do not meet their expectations. Sixty-eight percent admire those who speak out against their company, and 72 percent would feel comfortable whistleblowing if their employer was engaged in wrongdoing.

A Path Forward

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: California reveals a growing mandate for multilateral solutions, with appetite for business leaders, state and federal government to work together to resolve some of California’s most pressing issues.

In fact, with government as the least-trusted of California’s institutions, there is both expectation and opportunity for business to lead. Businesses are more trusted than federal government to improve their local areas and are seen as more responsible to address challenges, such as job displacement due to technology and lack of technical skills for future jobs.

By tackling the issues most impacting their communities and workers, grounding action in consistently articulated values, and working with government on both local and national priorities, California’s businesses can build trust and retain their license to innovate.

Ravi Moorthy is managing director, Corporate & Public Affairs, Western Region.