Honesty is the Best Corporate Policy

January 27, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Asia-Pacific | Europe & Middle East | Household Income

US consumers consider transparent and honest practices and trustworthiness as the most important factors for a company’s reputation, according to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer from PR firm Edelman.

Honesty Beats Money Hands-down

When asked to rank 10 factors in a company’s reputation, 83% of U.S. consumers said that both transparent and honest practices and a company being a “company I can trust” are extremely important. High quality products or services followed closely behind, selected by 79% of consumers as extremely important. Other popular factors were “communicates frequently” (75%), “treats employees well” (72%) and “good corporate citizen” (64%). Interestingly, the least popular choice was “financial returns,” which only 45% of consumers ranked as extremely important. In 2006, financial returns was the third-most popular choice, although it was only ranked as extremely important by a nearly identical 42% of respondents.


Trust in Businesses Rises Globally

Despite the negative publicity business has received during the current economic recession, consumers around the globe showed increased trust in business to do what is right. In the US, 54% of respondents said they trust in business, an 18-percentage-point increase from 36% last year. Italy had the highest growth rate in business trust, with 59% of respondents saying they trust in business, a 26-percentage-point increase from 33% last year. India had the highest overall percentage of respondents who trust in business, 71%, compared to 67% last year. In China the percentage stayed flat at 62%, and Russia had by the far steepest decline in business trust, falling from 52% last year to 42% this year.


U.S. Companies Gain Global Trust

When asked how much they trust global companies headquarters in the U.S. to do what is right, 61% of global respondents said their trust level scores from six to nine on a nine-point scale, a 10-percentage-point increase from last year. In the U.S., trust grew by 11 percentage points, from 60% to 71%. Interestingly, despite the general loss of trust in business to do what is right in Russia, when asked about global companies headquartered in the U.S., 57% of Russian respondents rated their trust level between six and nine. This was an impressive 29-percentage-point improvement from 28% last year.


Trust is Short-lived

Although trust in business seems to generally be on the rise both inside and outside of the U.S., a healthy skepticism remains about how long-term this buildup of trust will last. A majority of respondents in every top-10 GDP nation except Japan said they expect business and financial companies to return to “business as usual” when the recession is over. In India, 82% of respondents expect a return to business as usual, closely followed by 78% of respondents in Germany, 76% of respondents in China, and 74% of respondents in France. US respondents were less cynical, with 59% expecting a return to business as usual, earning the U.S. the ninth spot. The least cynical respondents were in Japan, where only 49% of respondents expect a return to business as usual.


Additional Survey Findings:

  • 78% of U.S. respondents trust the technology industry to do what is right, a slight increase from 75% in 2007.
  • 29% of U.S. respondents trust the banking industry to do what us right, a 39-percentage-point drop from 68% in 2007.
  • Stock or industry analyst reports received the highest rating as a credible source of information about a company, selected by 49% of global respondents as “extremely” or “very” credible.

About the survey: The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 10th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey was produced by research firm StrategyOne and consisted of 25-minute telephone interviews using the fielding services of World One from September 29-December 6, 2009. The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer survey sampled 4,875 informed publics in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64). 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.


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