How businesses can retain the trust they’ve won during the pandemic

September 16, 2021, 10:41 AM UTC

Good morning.

One of the surprising outcomes of the pandemic was surveys showing trust in business—and particularly trust “in my employer”—had risen, relative to trust in government (and also relative, by the way, to trust in media).

But why has it risen? And what does business have to do to retain that trust? To explore the issue more deeply, PwC surveyed roughly 1,000 U.S. consumers and 500 business executives, in partnership with Fortune Brand Studio. Some interesting findings:

  • Data privacy and cybersecurity was the most cited trust concern, by both executives (70%) and consumers (62%).
  • Providing employees with the opportunity to learn and grow also ranked high among both executives (55%) and consumers (53%).
  • Ethical business practices was also mentioned by a majority of both groups (52% each).

On some issues, executives and consumers diverged. For instance, many of executives rated “responsible artificial intelligence” (43%), sustainable value chain management (43%), and transparent ESG reporting (41%) as top trust issues. Consumers rated those much less highly (27%, 27% and 25%, respectively.)

Interestingly, one other issue that both executives and consumers felt was important to building trust (46% of each) was “admitting to mistakes quickly and honestly.” Tim Ryan, the U.S. chair of PwC, told me that takeaway may be a wake-up call for leaders who were taught to never show vulnerability. “How do you teach that to someone who was brought up for 20, 25, 30 years to think: ‘Never admit a mistake because people are going to attack you’?”

Ryan said the firm’s focus on trust is the result of a two-year period of extensive conversations with clients. “Trust came to the top of the agenda,” he said. “What we heard across almost every industry, across almost every geography, is that our clients are struggling with how do you gain more trust? Not just with employees, but with other stakeholders—consumers, regulators, communities and the like.”

Other news below.

Alan Murray


Nuclear subs

The U.S. and U.K., which already have a long-standing agreement to share nuclear submarine technology, have decided to let Australia (which has no domestic nuclear industry) into the club. The new partnership, dubbed AUKUS, is not explicitly aimed at countering Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region, but the implication is obvious and China is annoyed. So is France, because the pact effectively scraps Australia's $43 billion contract to buy French nuclear-powered subs. Guardian

Didi bleeds

Beijing's crackdown on Didi Chuxing, following its June New York IPO, has seen Didi lose 30% of its daily user base. Chinese regulators stopped Didi from signing up new users, in the context of a still-ongoing data security investigation. When the company finally gets around to reporting its Q2 earnings to U.S. shareholders, the news is probably not going to be great. Financial Times

Railway M&A

Canadian Pacific Railway will shell out $27 billion for Kansas City Southern after rival bidder Canadian National Railway dropped out. The deal, if it goes through, will create the first freight rail network that spans Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. Wall Street Journal

Kremlin vs Google

Russian elections start tomorrow and, although the Kremlin-critical associates of Alexei Navalny can't run themselves, they've been publishing tactical-voting lists in an effort to boot Putin allies out of office. The lists were published on Google Docs, among other online places, and now reports have emerged that Russians can't access Google's document-sharing platform. Fortune


European energy

Fortune's Sophie Mellor examines the European energy crisis that has suddenly emerged, thanks to calm in the North Sea: "Heading into winter at a time when more energy is already needed to fuel the economic recovery as the region emerges from the pandemic, European countries are setting aside quotas meant to cap carbon emissions and re-thinking the shut-down of coal plants in order to fill the gap left by the missing wind." Fortune

Indian unicorn

The digital hiring startup Apna has raised fresh funding at a $1.1 billion valuation. Apna is less than two years old, but is nonetheless a unicorn. Founder Nirmit Parikh sees a grand future ahead: "We are solving the biggest problem in the world and, if successful, will not just remedy unemployment but also poverty, health care and education of the next generation." Fortune

Chinese luxury

Crackdown-happy Beijing has signaled that it might go after the luxury sector next, as, in President Xi Jinping's words, "it’s necessary to…regulate excessively high incomes and encourage high-income groups to return more to society." But as Fortune's Yvonne Lau writes: "China’s luxury goods market—the second-largest in the world after the U.S. and the world’s fastest-growing—has weathered extreme challenges before… [suggesting] that fears of 'common prosperity' hitting luxury spending may be overblown." Fortune

NFT probe

The non-fungible token marketplace OpenSea has launched an investigation into an employee's purchase of items before they were scheduled to go live on the platform. "We want to be clear that this behavior does not represent our values as a team," the NFT outfit said, though it did not say what the consequences for the employee were. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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