The trust equation is becoming more complex

March 15, 2022, 10:40 AM UTC

Good morning.

Trust has been a lubricant of business since the beginning of time. But recent demands on business to play a broader role in society have made the trust equation more complex. As part of our CEO Initiative, Fortune and PwC yesterday assembled 20 CEOs from diverse industries to discuss the challenge. Some excerpts below:

It became very clear to us that our clients were dealing with more and more issues that, if we traced them to their roots, were related to trust. We found more and more of our clients dealing with not just the legality of taxes, but the morality. With ESG, diversity, how you treat your employees, how you pay your employees, data, data privacy, data security…And in many cases, the market valued these things as much or more than the financial statements themselves.”
—Tim Ryan, U.S. chair and senior partner, PwC

“In the insurance industry, trust is our entire business model. We don’t have a tangible product. We need to be there when our customers need us most…It really does start with employees. If your employees feel respected and valued, they are going to be that way with customers, and the customers will reward you with loyalty.”
—Tricia Griffith, CEO, Progressive

“For us, trust is trust with employees, trust with customers, trust with shareholders…But the most important is trust with employees.”
—Ravi Saligram, CEO, Newell Brands

“As we saw in the financial crisis, trust does arrive on foot and leave on horseback, and it takes a while to build it back.”
—Gerald Walker, CEO, ING Americas

“Business is the most trusted institution in the world. It has been for two years. It is important to note, though, that it is ‘my employer’ that is much more trusted than business in general…Geopolitics is the new test of trust. Before that it was sustainability, DEI, reskilling, wage levels.”
—Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman

“It’s been a traumatic last couple of years, piled on with another trauma right now…Our employee base in particular is looking to us for a sense of stability, the rudder in their lives, to give them confidence we are going to get over this.”
Elizabeth Spaulding, CEO, Stitch Fix

“As a new company, trading in chemicals, sometimes hazardous, we felt a deep need for a clear purpose…In this world of scarce resources, especially talent, it’s important to say we are here for a better purpose.”
—Mark Newman, CEO, Chemours

“Maybe this discussion of trust is missing the bigger thing, which is empathy. The more we can put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and employees, the more we can adapt.”
—Tony Bates, CEO, Genesys

“It’s very clear that the business of business is no longer business. But…we can’t live in a failed society with just business doing good things. Business has to commit and recommit to supporting government. If we do everything else right and government fails, we will have a failed society.”
—Stanley Bergman, CEO, Henry Schein

“I have been really struck by the need for collective action, both within industry and across industry.”
—Jessica Orkin, CEO, SY Partners

Business action in response to the war in Ukraine was one of the hottest topics of yesterday’s conversation. Among those attending was the president of Marriott, which is still operating in Russia. Her comments helped explain why they have continued, despite the withdrawal of other Western companies:

“We are evaluating it every single day. We made it clear we are shutting our corporate office in Russia, and pulling back all investments. But we are trying to navigate this with the safety and security of our associates first and foremost on our mind.”
—Stephanie Linnartz, President, Marriott

And Michael Sonnenshein, CEO of crypto investment firm Grayscale, dismissed the notion that Russia might use cryptocurrencies to evade sanctions:

“Crypto is probably the worst mechanism possible for doing anything the least bit untoward or nefarious…Everything you do leaves a digital breadcrumb.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


China’s stance

U.S. officials reportedly believe China has responded positively to Russia’s plea for military equipment. If it does actually send Russia such equipment, that could trigger sanctions against China. Fortune

Jet grab

Foreign decertification of Russian planes looks set to prompt an extraordinary display of state-sanctioned theft in Russia. The Kremlin yesterday passed a law allowing domestic airlines to register foreign-owned planes in Russia, so Russia’s airlines can keep flying those aircraft even after lessors cancel the contracts. Only useful for domestic routes, of course. Fortune

Manchin vs. Raskin

Sen. Joe Manchin opposes and will likely scuttle the installation of Sarah Bloom Raskin as the Federal Reserve’s vice chair for banking supervision, because he doesn’t like her anti–fossil-fuel stance. Wall Street Journal


Elon Musk challenged Putin to “single combat,” with Ukraine as the stakes, because of course he did. The response came from Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency, who tweeted: “You, little devil, are still young. Compete with me weakling. It would only be a waste of time.” Musk responded with memes. If we do live in a simulation, as the Tesla/SpaceX boss claims to believe, it’s a very dumb one. Fortune


Frontier sustainability

Ambreen Ali writes about Frontier’s planned merger with Spirit Airlines: “What is clear is that while sustainability is an added benefit of the ultra–low-cost model, both airlines are placing greater emphasis on it as the industry faces greater scrutiny by customers and shareholders about its environmental impact.” Fortune

Crypto forensics

The crypto forensics firm Elliptic claims to have identified a digital wallet that could be holding millions of dollars’ worth of assets linked to sanctioned Russians. Elliptic cofounder Tom Robinson: “It’s not proving out realistic that oligarchs can completely bypass sanctions by moving all their wealth into crypto. Crypto is highly traceable. Crypto can and will be used for sanctions evasion, but it’s not the silver bullet.” Fortune

Death tolls

Why is it so hard to get accurate death tolls from the Russian-Ukrainian war? The reasons differ depending on whether you’re looking at civilian or combatant deaths. Fortune

For BS

Rob Walker defends corporate BS in this fascinating piece that we’re not going to quote here because we would like this newsletter to make it to your inbox. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

This is the web version of CEO Daily, a newsletter of must-read insights from Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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