Australia's trust in business nosedives to post-GFC levels

Australia's trust in business nosedives to post-GFC levels

Trust in the CEO declines for the third year running

Australia's trust in business has plummetted to post-GFC levels, declining 11 per cent to 48 per cent.

That's according to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, which reveals an alarming contraction of trust across all institutions.

Trust in government, business and in the general population is below 50 per cent in two-thirds of countries, including the US, UK, Germany, Japan and Australia.

According to the report, this year signalled 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 per cent in 14 countries, the worst showing since 2008.

Australia recorded one of the largest drop (11 points to 48 per cent) as well as Canada (15 points to 47 per cent), Germany (12 points to 45 per cent), and Singapore (10 points to 61 per cent).

This is highlighted by drops in the technology industry, which is still the most trusted sector, but which saw declines in trust in most countries for the first time.

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 Australian respondents believe innovation is happening too quickly (53 per cent) and that it is being driven by greed (72 per cent) and business growth imperatives (74 per cent), while only some (14 per cent) see it being done to make the world a better place. More than half (57 per cent) feel business is not doing enough testing of new developments and want stronger regulation (45 per cent).

Edelman chief executive, Richard Edelman, said the pace of change had never been faster and innovation had become an even greater imperative for business success.

Read more: Australian government launches cybercrime reporting website

“Innovation should be a trust accelerator, but today it is not," he said.

"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.”

Australians have higher levels of trust in developments in the technology, financial services and health industries, including electronic and mobile payments (55 per cent) and personal health trackers (48 per cent).

However, innovations introduced in the energy and food sectors, such as hydraulic fracturing (35 per cent) and genetically modified foods (34 per cent), are viewed with far more scepticism.

Respondents identified key actions that would increase trust in an industry to implement innovations: making test results publicly available for review (77 per cent), partnering with credible third parties, including academic institutions (69 per cent), and running clinical trials or beta tests (64 per cent).

Trust in the government also fell in Australia.

A year after his confident election night pledge to give Australia a competent and trustworthy government, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his government languish in public esteem.

This steady fall in public opinion has been mirrored in this year’s Trust Barometer.

In the wake of the Liberal Coalition government victory, the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer (collected late 2013) showed a 13 point increase in trust in government from the prior year.

However, this year’s data shows a decline in overall trust in government by Australians – a 7 point drop from 56 per cent to 49 per cent in the eyes of informed publics, a decline exceeded globally only in Malaysia and South Korea.

The decline in trust in the CEO as a credible spokesperson continued for the third consecutive year, with trust levels now at 31 per cent in developed markets.

In Australia, CEOs (33 per cent) and government officials (37 per cent) continue to be the least credible sources, lagging far behind academic or industry experts (66 per cent) and a person like yourself (55 per cent).

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 across 27 markets.

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