While Australians appear to be more trusting of employers, government, business and the media, they also strongly believe that CEOs must take more responsibility for change, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer.
Worldwide, more than three-quarters of those surveyed (76 per cent) say they want CEOs to take the lead on change instead of waiting for government to impose it (up from 65 per cent last year). In the survey of 33,000 people in 27 countries conducted by communications and reputation management firm Edelman, 73 per cent also believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates.
“CEOs must speak up directly on social issues, such as immigration, diversity and inclusion. But they must do more than talk; they must demonstrate their personal commitment, inside and outside the company. Seventy-six percent of people expect CEOs to take a stand on challenging issues,” says CEO and president Richard Edelman.
In line with these global trends, trust in business in Australia rose to a net "trustful" viewpoint of 52 per cent, up from 45 per cent in 2018. About 72 per cent of Australian survey respondents agreed with the statement that businesses can increase profits and simultaneously improve their communities. About 1150 people took part in the survey in Australia.
Australians also rank above average when it comes to trusting their employers, at 77 per cent (up 3 per cent from the 2018 survey) against a global trust level of 75 per cent.
This shift in public sentiment on the responsibilities placed in CEOs and business can be attributed to a loss of faith in traditional areas, says Edelman.
"The last decade has seen a loss of faith in traditional authority figures and institutions," he says. "More recently, people have lost confidence in the social platforms that fostered peer-to-peer trust. These forces have led people to shift their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers."
CEOS need to step up and lead change, and this call to action is becoming more urgent, adds Stephen Kehoe, Edelman Global Chair, Reputation. “In the face of heightened expectations on CEOs to step into the trust vacuum left by government, pressure is on them to do more - and quickly - to invoke a sense of certainty, reassurance and confidence with employees as well as the general public.” CEOs must consider the significantly heightened expectations on them to be advocates for change in a world that is still confused and uncertain, he says.
When it comes to trust in government, Australia’s trust in government score rose seven points this year to 42 per cent. Men (45 per cent) are more likely to say they trust government than women (39 per cent).
Australia appears to be quite pessimistic about its economic future, with Australians ranking low when it comes to believing that they and their families will be better off in five years. While 54 per cent of Australia's elite think their economic prospects will have improved by 2024, only 32 per cent of the general population think so. For this question, Australia in fact recorded the survey's largest gap between a country's general population and its informed public.
Trust in media has risen in Australia, although it is still the least trusted institution. Of the 26 countries surveyed, Australia saw one of the largest increases, rising nine points to a score of 40 per cent.
Trust in non-government organisations (NGOs) has also risen eight points in Australia to 56 per cent.