THE EDELMAN TRUST REPORT 2022 CYCLE OF DISTRUST THREATENS ACTION ON GLOBAL CHALLENGES

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

Representatives from the OECS – including Anguilla – attended the UN 2021 Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, 31st October to 13th November, 2021, and added their individual and collective voices to the debate on climate issues impacting the sub-region. They seemed hopeful that outcomes from the conference would significantly impact the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the region – in the short-term – and contribute to lasting climate change in the long-term.

The risks of climate crises continue to blanket the world, COVID-19 is still spreading globally, economic recovery and development in many nations have stalled, and the elastic gap between the rich and the poor continues to stretch even wider. Shared ownership of these realities informed discussions at the 2022 World Economic Forum.

On January 17-21, 2022, participants of the Davos Agenda 2022, met virtually at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, to analyse the Edelman Trust Barometer Report, discuss their visions for the year, and share solutions to address the weighty, global issues that bind them together as an entity teetering on the brink of disaster.

Highlights from the Edelman Trust Report were published, and conclusions drawn from their analysis reveal “a vicious cycle of distrust fueled by government and media,” observed Mr. Richard Edelman, Edelman CEO.

The Edelman Report, which is now in its 22nd year, surveyed 36,000 respondents in 28 countries on issues of trust across a wide spectrum within their communities – political, scientific, religious, social and business.

Findings indicate that these four forces are at work and could destabilise society and stop progress on tackling COVID-19, climate change and racism if left unchecked: government and media, business, leadership, and class divide.

1. Government and media distrust continues to spiral downward.
Trust in democracies continues to crumble. Mr. Edelman noted: “This vicious cycle of distrust threatens societal stability. It’s a death grip where media is chasing clicks and government is chasing votes, both feeding a cycle of disinformation and division and exploiting it for commercial and political gain.”

Government and media are seen as dividing forces, while business and NGOs are seen as unifying. The Report shows that two-thirds of people are convinced they’re being lied to on social media, by journalists, heads of government and business leaders.

“[In general], government was the most trusted institution as recently as May 2020, when the world sought leadership capable of tackling a global pandemic,” says Mr. Edelman. “Now, after the confused and bungled response [globally], when it comes to basic competence, government is less trusted than businesses and NGOs. The Report shows that although people want government to take on the big challenges, only 4 in 10 say that government can execute and get results.

There has been a collapse of trust in developed democracies as many failed to reach a score of 60 on this year’s Trust Index, including Australia (53), France (50), Germany (46), UK (44) and the U.S. (43), which has dropped 10 points since 2017. Contrast that to the trust jumps in non-democratic countries – China (83) and the UAE (76), which saw increases of 11 and 9 points respectively. The disparity is highlighted by the record 40-point gap between China and the U.S. The explanation: respondents in every developed country studied believe they will be worse off financially in five years, and 85 % fear they will lose their jobs to forces including automation.

2. Excessive reliance on business increases.
“Government failure has created an over-reliance on business to fill the void, a job that private enterprise was not designed to deliver,” Mr. Edelman observes. “Business must now be the stabilising force delivering tangible action and results on society’s most critical issues. Societal leadership is now a core business function.”

By an average of five-to-one margin, respondents in the 28 countries surveyed want business to play a larger role on climate change, economic inequality, workforce reskilling and addressing racial injustice. All stakeholders want business to fill the void, with nearly 60 % of consumers buying brands based on their values and beliefs, almost 6 in 10 employees choosing a workplace based on shared values and expect their CEO to take a stand on societal issues, and 64 % of investors looking to back businesses aligned with their values.

Business further distanced itself from government, outscoring it by 53 points on competence and 26 points on ethics. More than 8 in 10 respondents want CEOs to be the face of change, leading on policy, not on politics.

3. Mass-class divide.
“The global pandemic has widened the fissure that surfaced in the wake of the Great Recession,” says Mr. Edelman. “High-income earners have become more trusting of institutions, while lower-income earners have become increasingly wary.” The economic divide continues to widen as the poor are finding it more difficult to make ends meet on meagre earnings and must survive on little or no financial income. Meanwhile, the rich continue to indulge in opulence, making the gap between rich and poor even more obvious.

4. Failure of leadership.
“Classic societal leaders in government, the media and business have been discredited,” says Mr. Edelman. “Trust, once hierarchical, has become local and dispersed as people rely more on their employer, their colleagues, and their family, and less on their government and societal leaders.”

Distrust has become the default emotion of many, with most respondents (59 %) saying they tend to distrust until seeing evidence that something is trustworthy, and 64 % believing people in their country lack the ability to have constructive and civil debates. This could hamper progress on tackling global challenges including COVID-19 and climate change.

Restoring Trust is Key to Societal Stability.
Rebuilding trust will require institutions to provide factual information that breaks the cycle of distrust, while leaders must focus on bringing people together on common ground issues – and on long-term thinking, and making clear progress on areas of concern.

“Facing this myriad of challenges will require both a new way of operating and a much higher level of performance from our core institutions,” says Mr. Edelman.

“Government must finally gain control over the pandemic on a global basis. NGOs have an invaluable role to play on climate change and the last mile on the pandemic. The media needs to get back to a business model that replaces outrage with sobriety, and clickbait with calm authority,” Mr. Edelman concluded.

Amidst the backdrop of this global Trust Report, can hope – born out of the COP26 – and prospects – envisioned through a rebranded tourism product – provide enough buoyance to keep Anguilla hopeful during this time of global uncertainty and with significant increase in cost of goods and services on the immediate horizon? What do you think?

The Edelman´s Trust Barometer 2022 full report can be accessed on the following web address: https://www.edelman.com/trust/2022-trust-barometer