Fireside Chat: Trust in Business in a Post-Covid World

Our sixth Fireside Chat on Friday 1 May focused on trust in business in a post-covid world as we start to look forward to the long-term implications of the pandemic for CRS professionals and business more generally. Andrew Wilson, Director, Purpose at Edelman and ICRS Board Director, provided an overview of Edelman’s most recent pulse survey of public trust in business taken in March 2020.  

What is key is that business, and the wider world, must be ready for a reset, not a restart. There is an opportunity here for businesses to build upon the sudden change in consumer expectations and behaviour to engender further trust and meet the demand for sustainable practices not only now, but also in the future.

Trust is a key indicator of future success and consumers have high expectations of business, which have become heightened during the pandemic. We’ve seen some exceptional examples of businesses engendering trust by rapidly changing their processes to deliver essential products and services, protecting their employees and suppliers and bringing communities together; all of which are ranked highly by the public. Indeed, in many countries business was initially seen to respond more quickly than government.

However, we’ve also seen examples of poor practice focused on selling rather than providing solutions, which could potentially prove costly in the long run. In their survey Edelman found that 40% of consumers have already changed their spending habits based on a company’s response to the pandemic. Furthermore, 66% said they were likely to change the way they shop in the future and 71% stated that they would lose all trust in companies that put profit before purpose.

Looking towards the future, there is a potential tension between overcoming an economic depression and forging a more sustainable way of life, but there is evidence that ESG stocks are faring better than others during the crisis. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of business resilience for shareholders and we may be starting to see a shift in language from sustainability to resilience.  This long-term focus on companies that are able to withstand external crises may well lead toward greater efforts to tackle climate change. In addition consumers have demonstrated a willingness to change aspects of their lifestyles, make different choices, reassess what is important to them and recognise the benefits of reduced carbon emissions. We need to be looking forward to a reset not a restart, as all the evidence suggests that business as usual after the pandemic is not an option.

Our next Fireside Chat on Thursday 7 May will reflect on six weeks under lockdown and feature thoughts from an in-house perspective from Jennie Galbraith, Group Head of Sustainability at British American Tobacco and ICRS Board Director, as well as a view into life post-lockdown from Maggie Zhang, Partner Manager at Carnstone Partners (Asia).

In the meantime, you can find all the resources shared by our members on our Covid-19 resource area.

If you have thoughts on how the ICRS can support you, please email info@icrs.info. We’re encouraging our members to share examples of how they’re responding to the pandemic so be sure that you’re also a member of our members-only LinkedIn Group, The Exchange Online.

An updated report from Edelman is due to be released soon, which may reflect changes in public attitudes. For further information, please visit their website at https://www.edelman.com/.