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Davos in Crisis

January 16, 2017, 12:07 PM UTC

Good morning.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m in Davos – the Swiss mountain retreat for the global corporate elite that has fallen out of favor in an era of anti-global, anti-corporate, anti-elite public sentiment. Judging from my calendar, there’s no sign CEOs are pulling back this year. They apparently still find it an efficient place to do business — in four days’ time, they can arrange meetings that would otherwise require months of travel.

But in case any of them doubt the public mood, PR guru Richard Edelman this morning is releasing his annual “trust barometer,” based on an online survey of 30,000 people in 28 countries. The result? Trust in all institutions – government, business, media, NGOs – has fallen precipitously, and reached all-time lows in 17 countries. A majority of respondents — 53% — say the system has failed them. CEO credibility has fallen twelve percentage points, to an all-time low of 37 percent – although CEOs still beat out government leaders, in whom trust stands at 29 percent.


“The implications of the global trust crisis are deep and wide-ranging,” says Edelman. “It began with the Great Recession of 2008, but like the second and third waves of a tsunami, globalization and technological change have further weakened people’s trust in global institutions. The consequence is virulent populism and nationalism as the mass population has taken control away from the elites.”

You can read the full report here.

As I’ve said before in this space, the trust crisis is an existential one for global business. One Fortune 100 CEO told me earlier this month that if it isn’t addressed soon, “we will lose our operating license.”

We’ll be talking about this Thursday evening at Fortune’s annual CEO dinner in Davos, which will bring together 30 of the world’s top CEOs, and I’ll be reporting on this and other topics throughout the week.