Sharing economy and social media hold valuable lessons for business on building trust, says PwC’s Ian Powell

Published at 09:44 AM on 02 October 2015

PwC announces winners of the 13th annual Building Public Trust Awards

Businesses must harness the key attributes of social media – open, fast and direct communication – rather than see it as a problem, if they are to build trust with their people, customers and society, according to Ian Powell, PwC’s Chairman and Senior Partner. 

Speaking to an audience of over 300 business leaders, regulators, senior civil servants and professional bodies at the 2015 Building Public Trust Awards, Mr Powell identified social media and the sharing economy as two areas that organisations must embrace and learn from if they are to establish and maintain trust.

“From our discussions with businesses, students and the wider public on the issue of trust, all voice a positive desire to trust and be trusted and see common ground on what underpins trust – the recurring themes being transparency and honesty. The desire to trust is there, yet organisations are only now working out how to engage meaningfully in the rapidly changing world of continuous commentary on our organisations through social media. 

“The speed and reach of social media can be overwhelming.  When reputation is under strain in today’s 24/7 world, its social media responses cannot be controlled from the centre.  It has to be a natural reaction and response from people inside the organisation supported with the facts to enable them to respond.  Three crucial ingredients to getting it right are empowerment, engagement and authenticity.

“An important development on trust is the advent of the sharing economy where individuals may trust strangers more than they trust institutions.  The new sharing world allows individuals to corroborate information and experience with an entire community of straight-talking providers of feedback – people like themselves - in order to check authenticity.   

“There’s no intermediary or corporate filter. Organisations that are able to embrace and engage authentically with the sharing economy will grow trust.”  

Now in its 13th year, the Building Public Trust Awards is one of the longest established initiatives targeted at enhancing trust in business. Its stated purpose is to recognise organisations which show transparency and ‘tell it how it is’. 

Mr Powell highlighted how PwC itself has thought long and hard about how it can be more transparent through reporting that’s accessible, engaging and interactive, while still covering all the regulatory bases.  Last month the firm launched its first fully digital Annual Report using videos, infographics and data analysis tools to deliver an accessible online experience.

The independent judging panel singled out the following organisations for recognition this year:

Excellence in reporting in the FTSE 100
Joint winners: Legal & General Group and United Utilities Group
Highly commended: British American Tobacco, The British Land Company

Excellence in reporting in the FTSE 250
Winner: Provident Financial
Highly commended: Great Portland Estates, Tullow Oil

Excellence in reporting in Private Business
Winner: John Lewis Partnership
Highly commended: Co-operative Group, Marshall of Cambridge (Holdings)

Excellence in reporting in Charities
Winner: Cancer Research UK
Highly commended: Church Commissioners for England, Save the Children UK

Excellence in reporting in the Public Sector (awarded with National Audit Office)
Winner: Department for Business Innovation & Skills
Highly commended: HM Revenue & Customs, National Savings & Investment

The Awards were presented to the winners by Paul Drechsler CBE, President of the CBI; Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Intellectual Property; Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO CBE; and Sir Amyas Morse KCB.




Notes to editors:


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© 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers. All rights reserved.


About PwC

At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 208,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at

PwC refers to the PwC network and/or one or more of its member firms, each of which is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. © 2016 PwC. All rights reserved

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