Survey: Europeans have little trust in business
Europeans have little trust in business or their governments. The US is more balanced, but business ignores social issues at its peril.
Loyalty can't really exist in any relationship if there isn't a degree of trust. And consumers' level of trust in business, at the moment, is nothing to be proud of. Global communications firm, Edelman PR Worldwide, has surveyed 850 "Opinion Leaders" - media and policy attentive adults aged between 35 and 64, with college incomes and household incomes greater than US$75,000 - in the US, UK, France and Germany.
NGOs filling trust void The research reveals some major differences on the two sides of the Atlantic. One in two Europeans trust non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - like Greenpeace, World Wildlife Foundation and Amnesty International - to "do the right thing", and this proportion is growing. However, Europeans have little trust in business and even less in government, which fell from 36% last year to 26% this year - driven by a sharp fall in the UK. Trust in the media has increased substantially - particularly in the UK.
According to Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman PR Worldwide, in Europe the NGOs are filling the trust void left by weak government. And the failures of companies like Enron and Railtrack do little to help.
Where does this leave business? Across the Atlantic, trust in business, government and NGOs is more balanced, but US Opinion Leaders still trust the big names in business (like Microsoft, McDonalds and Coca Cola) more than they trust NGOs. Trust in the government has risen since September 11th.
Where does all this leave business? What do consumers want?
According to Jonathan Wootliff, Managing Director of Edelman's Stakeholder Strategies unit in Brussels and New York, companies and brands on both sides of the Atlantic need to be more aware of their social obligations. "Nine out of ten Opinion Leaders in Europe and America believe companies should continue efforts to become more socially responsible despite the recession. Nearly 80% of European and American Opinion Leaders want NGOs and business to partner on tough issues."
The important attributes In Europe, business is not seen to be delivering on highly important corporate attributes such as proper treatment of employees, social and environmental responsibility. Eight out of ten Opinion Leaders consider these attributes highly important yet only four out of ten feel that European businesses are doing an adequate job in these areas.
Unlike Americans, most Europeans feel that brands are displacing local alternatives and are forcing cultural homogeneity on the world.
Both Europeans and Americans agree on one thing at least: treating employees well and being honest with the public are rated as most important among the corporate attributes studied. More than eight in ten Europeans and seven in ten Americans rate corporate social behaviour and environmental responsibility as highly important.
Willing to pay more Most Europeans and Americans say they try to purchase, and are willing to pay more for, products produced in a socially responsible manner and agree that brands should signal something wholesome about their corporate parents. And half of all Europeans and one-third of Americans try to avoid purchasing brands or products of companies being boycotted by NGOs.