Closing the trust deficit

Author: Dennis Nally, Chairman, PwC International Ltd.

Dennis Nally photoBusiness today is suffering from a global trust deficit. Recent experience has underlined time and again just how fragile trust can be, and how serious the consequences are when it evaporates. So the challenge – and priority – is to find practical and actionable ways to earn back the trust of society.

In fact, rebuilding trust is imperative for many reasons. Amid today’s pervasive connectivity and constant 24/7 scrutiny, trust is a critical asset. Yet it doesn’t appear on the balance sheet or figure in any financial reporting.

Business does many great – albeit often unacknowledged – things for society as a whole. It creates jobs; drives economic activity and growth; generates the profits that fund tax revenues; and fuels global trade that helps reduce poverty. But all too often, business is perceived as ruthlessly pursuing its own interests, irrespective of society’s needs.

For a company without public trust, doing business becomes very difficult. Conversely, a business that’s highly trusted can magnify its beneficial impacts on society, by taking decisions faster and with more certainty, attracting and retaining more and better people, and being able to expand and innovate with greater confidence.

So, how can we close the trust deficit? Trust is a two-way street: if it isn’t reciprocated, it doesn’t work. So what’s needed is a new, mutually understood settlement between business and society – one that aligns expectations on both sides and clarifies the contribution that each is seeking from the other.  

The settlement should define the purpose of business in society. By having a clear and explicit purpose that is based on and takes account of the needs of all its stakeholders, a business can give society an unimpeded view of why it exists, and of what it does and why. 

Read more in the full article, Measuring the impact of a company on society: how to gain an all-round view, published in the Brewery Journal, www.freuds.com/thebrewery.

And find out what CEOs think about the changing role of business, as global trends transform society, in PwC's 17th Annual Global CEO Survey.

Dennis Nally leads the global network of PwC firms. He has extensive experience serving large multinational clients in a variety of  industries, principally focusing on technology and life sciences. Dennis is also a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on issues affecting the professional services profession and the global capital markets. Read Dennis Nally's full biography.

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Dennis' article raises a long extant problem that has been 'put under the corporate carpet' and has become an excuse for poor leadership.

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