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2009 Edelman Trust Barometer
About the Edelman Trust Barometer
The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s 10th study of trust and
credibility. A 30-minute telephone survey was conducted among 4,475 people
in 20 countries on five continents between November 5 and December 14,
2008, following the presidential election in the United States. For the first time,
the survey sampled two different age groups concurrently in every country (1,075
people ages 25 to 34 and 3,400 people ages 35 to 64) and added Australia and
Indonesia to the list of countries surveyed.
The informed publics interviewed in the 2009 survey:
• are college-educated;

• report a household income in the top quartile of their country (per age group);
• report significant media consumption and engagement in business news
and public policy.
Margin of Error For the 35-to-64 age group, margin of error is ±1.7% globally;
±4.9% for the U.S. sample; ±5.7% for the China sample; and ±8.0% for
other countries in the study. For the 25-to-34 age group, margin of error is
±3.0% globally; ± 9.8% for the U.S. sample; ±11.3% for the China sample;
and ±13.9% for other countries in the study.
Disclosure At the time the 2009 Trust Barometer was compiled, Edelman had a
client relationship with the following companies or brands mentioned in this
brochure: Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Johnson & Johnson.
For more information on the Edelman Trust Barometer and to view past
results, please visit
The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer was conducted by Edelman’s research
firm, StrategyOne.

About Edelman
Edelman is the world’s largest independent public relations firm, with 3,200
employees in 53 offices worldwide. Edelman was named “Large Agency of
the Year” in 2008 by PRWeek and a top-10 firm in the Advertising Age “2007
Agency A-List,” the first and only PR firm to receive this recognition. CEO
Richard Edelman was honored as “2007 Agency Executive of the Year” by both
Advertising Age and PRWeek. PRWeek also named Edelman “Large Agency
of the Year” in 2006 and awarded the firm its “Editor’s Choice” distinction. For
more information, visit

On the cover, from top left: A farmer from Yunnan province cries over her baby, one
of thousands sickened by milk products that manufacturers in China adulterated with
melamine; the Royal Bank of Scotland, which was bailed out by the British government
after a near-collapse in late 2008; a house in foreclosure, a symbol of the subprime mort-
gage crisis in the United States that sparked the country’s recession; an electronic sign
captures the sharp decline in the value of NASDAQ stock on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008,
when the Dow Jones industrials dropped more than 150 points; Richard S. Fuld Jr.,
former CEO of Lehman Brothers, the American brokerage house that filed for
bankruptcy in September 2008; demonstrators in Reykjavik, Iceland, which suffered a
complete financial meltdown in 2008.

Thousands of demonstrators crowd a square in Reykjavik, Iceland, in December 2008 to protest the country’s economic collapse and demand
the resignation of leaders thought to be responsible. The global credit crunch of 2008 brought down the country’s three main banks, devalued
the country’s currency, and forced Iceland to seek billions of dollars in aid from international sources.

Business’s Fall From Grace: Where to From Here? 2

The State of Trust: A Global Divide 4

Who Can We Trust? 12

A Call for Government Intervention 15

The Business Case for Trust 18

Public Engagement: The Road to Rebuilding Trust 20

Business’s Fall From Grace: Where to From Here?
We have never had a more dramatic backdrop against which to relay the findings of the annual
Edelman Trust Barometer than we have for our 10th edition, conducted in 20 countries on five
continents just after the presidential election in the United States.

Business has had a disastrous year, less (figure 1). While our survey did Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Indonesia.
well beyond the evident destruction not ask why they had lost trust in In the developing countries among
in shareholder value and the need companies, a series of catastrophic this group, living standards are still
for emergency government funding. events that included the fall of the Big much higher than ever before and, in
Whereas the problems of corporate Three automakers and the national- Asia and Latin America, government
trust were limited largely to New ization of the Royal Bank of Scotland has always played a more activist role
Economy enterprises like Enron provide ample explanation. in the economy. It appears that the
and Global Crossing in 2001-2003, world is moving toward a consensus
companies at the center of the global The most profound fall from grace on a modified free market approach in
economy are in serious trouble for business has been in the United which government is more involved in
in 2008-2009. And in a further blow States, where trust had been grow- the private sector.
to corporate authority, confidence in ing after the 2002 Enron scandal. In
CEOs as a reliable source of infor- the home of capitalism, American Being a public company means
mation about their companies has trust in business to do what is right is something different now than it did
hit a new low globally. now most comparable to that of the when Milton Friedman claimed in
countries of “old Europe” where trust 1970 that the social responsibility
When asked whether they trusted levels have always been lower. Trust of business is to increase its profits.
corporations more or less than a in business, generally credited with Some four decades later, we’ve
year ago, more than one-half of our improved standards of living, still holds moved from a shareholder to a stake-
respondents said they trusted them up in the BRIC countries as well as in holder world in which business must

Figure 1: Companies less trusted now than a year ago
Thinking about everything you have read, seen, or heard about business in the last year, in general, do you trust corporations
a lot less, a little less, the same, a little more, or a lot more than you did at the same time last year?

% who trust companies less


80 83%
79% 77%
70 74% 73%
69% 67% 67% 67%
60 66%
62% 62% 61%
50 56% 55% 54%
50% 49% 49%

al d n S. ali
a y rea K. e ain da ly s ina en d o ia ia ia azi
ob lan pa U. an U. nc na Ita nd ed lan xic ss Ind es Br
Gl Ire Ja str rm Ko Fra Sp Ca rla Ch Sw Po Me Ru on
Au Ge S. eth
Informed publics ages 25 to 64 in 20 countries

recast its role to act in the public’s cause-related marketing and corporate
interest as well as for private gain. social responsibility; Shared Sacrifice
in the face of the global recession
The global support for more govern- through equitable compensation; and
ment regulation evidenced in this Continuous Conversation with stake-
“Business must make
year’s Barometer is not a call for
business to abdicate its responsibility
holders, characterized by agility,
timeliness, and contribution—not
fundamental changes
to tackle the big issues of our control—of message. if it is to regain the
time. A majority of respondents said
that business must partner with The rebuilding of trust will not happen license to operate.”
governments and advocacy groups overnight; it will go hand-in-hand with a
to solve the world’s pressing problems, recovery in the economy and a rise in
among them the financial crisis, share prices. Historically, we’ve seen
global warming, energy costs, and that trust is key to restoring investor
affordable health care. Business confidence (figure 2). Rebuilding trust
must make fundamental changes if it requires business to think and
is to regain the license to operate. communicate differently, to partner
with government and NGOs, to be
We believe in the potential of Public transparent by speaking publicly
Engagement, which combines reas- about goals, and then to document
sessment of corporate policy and successes or failures. It is time for
continuous communication. There are business to suit up, take the field, and
four elements in Public Engagement: go on offense for the second half of the
Public Sector Diplomacy, in which game. I’m optimistic that business has
business works in cooperation with the ability to regain its mandate to lead.
NGOs and government to address
major global issues; Mutual Social Richard Edelman
Responsibility, a combination of President and CEO, Edelman

Figure 2: Trust is key in rebuilding investor confidence
How much do you trust business to do what is right?

70 1800

Trust in U.S. business in general 1400
Enron, the dot-com bust,
50 and September 11 1200


30 600
S&P 500: Sep 2001 – Dec 2008

10 0
Sep 01
Dec 01
Mar 02
Jun 02
Sep 02
Dec 02
Mar 03
Jun 03
Sep 03
Dec 03
Mar 04
Jun 04
Sep 04
Dec 04
Mar 05
Jun 05
Sep 05
Dec 05
Mar 06
Jun 06
Sep 06
Dec 06
Mar 07
Jun 07
Sep 07
Dec 07
Mar 08
Jun 08
Sep 08
Dec 08

Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in the U.S.; Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

The State of Trust: A Global Divide
A country’s economic position and its prospects for growth emerge more strongly than ever
as factors in this year’s Trust Barometer. Although not a stark dividing line, informed publics in
emerging economies and developed markets reveal telling differences in their levels of trust in
institutions, industries, and a company’s headquartered country.

Trust in business is States trusting business today, levels Over the past seven years of Baro-
are the lowest they have been in the meter research, trust in business
country-specific Barometer’s tracking history—even among Europeans has been gauged
Around the world, informed publics lower than in the wake of Enron and as relatively stable, with overall trust
are less trusting of corporations to the dot-com bust (figure 4, page 5). scores in the 30%-to-40% range.
do what is right than they were a (Trust in government has been much
year ago. But when asked about For U.S. businesses, this down- more volatile, shifting up or down
their trust in business in general, turn marks a stark reversal from with political and economic changes.)
respondents in individual countries the steady uptick in trust of the last With these traditionally low levels of
reveal a wider spectrum of trust five years and a new parity with trust in business, Europe did not have
(figure 3). Western Europe, which historically far to fall this year and, for the most
shows the lowest trust levels in part, trust remained steady and low;
In the United States, home to some business among all nations surveyed. trust in business dropped in Italy,
of the largest corporate collapses, Perhaps more important, this portends Spain, and Ireland. The social model
trust in business collapsed as well, a movement away from the laissez- economies of the Netherlands and
dropping 20 percentage points over faire era where capitalism was Sweden are the exceptions to the rule,
the course of one year. With only king and “the business of business as both recorded a slight increase of
38% of informed publics in the United was business.” trust in business (figure 5, page 5).

Figure 3: Trust in business is country-specific
How much do you trust business to do what is right?
% who trust business to do what is right
Trust down Trust steady Trust up New
80 75% 74% in 2009
69% 71%
70 68%
65% 65%
61% 63% 62% 61%
60 58%
55% 54%
51% 49% 49% 49% 51%
50 47% 45% 45% 45% 45% 47% 45%
41% 41% 43% 45% 42%
38% 40% 39% 39%
40 35% 33%
30% 29%
30 27%


al S. ly
o ain ia
d da an
e K. lan
n rea ia ds azi
l en ina ali
a ia
ob U. Ita Sp Ind na U. Ko ss an Br ed Ch str es
Gl Me Ire Ca rm Fra Po Ja
S. Ru erl Sw on
Ge th Au Ind
Informed publics ages 35 to 64; Global total: 18 countries (excludes Australia and Indonesia) 2008 2009
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

West-East Shift
Figure 4: In U.S., trust in business at lowest level, including post-Enron; A QUESTION FOR...

Now on par with U.K./France/Germany
Nick Burns, former U.S. under-
How much do you trust business to do what is right? secretary of state, professor at
Harvard University’s Kennedy
School of Government, and a
58% counselor to Edelman
United States 53% 20-point
drop Q: How will the higher levels of
Enron, the dot-com bust, 51% business and government trust in
and September 11 49%
50 48% 48% emerging economies affect the
negotiations at forums like the G-20
44% 44% global financial talks, the Doha
round of trade talks, and the UN
41% 40% climate summit in Copenhagen?
40 38%
35% 36%
36% 36% A: We are in the midst of a major
34% strategic shift in world politics and
U.K./France/Germany economics—the rise to power of
China, India, Brazil, and others.
Business and government leaders
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
in the United States and other
Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in the U.S. and U.K./France/Germany Western nations will need to build
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest trusting relationships with their
counterparts from these rising
countries to achieve effective
results. China and India, in par-
ticular, will be lead players at the
G-20 financial talks, at Doha,
and at the climate summit.

Figure 5: In Europe, trust in business relatively low except in
Netherlands and Sweden
How much do you trust business to do what is right?

Moderate economies: Powerhouse economies: Social model Central/Eastern
90 trust declines trust steady but low governments: Europe
80 trust rises economies: With traditionally
+7 trust steady,
-9 -6
+12 relatively low low levels of trust
50 -14 55%
in business, Europe
49% 47% 45% 45% 45% 47% 45%

41% 40% 41%
35% 33%
42% did not have far
30% 29%
20 27%
to fall this year.
ly ain d an
e K. nd
s en d ia
Ita Sp lan U. ed lan ss
Ire rm Fra rla Sw Po Ru
Ge eth
Informed publics ages 35 to 64 2008 2009
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

A Crisis in Confidence In emerging economies, trust in short-lived. Our survey shows that
79% of Japanese, 56% of Chinese,
business remains high and 49% of Indian informed publics
The West’s skepticism about busi- say they now have growing concerns
Antonio Martins de la Cruz, ness stands in contrast to Asia Pacific about business. In the wake of the
foreign affairs minister of Satyam scandal—which broke after
and Latin America, where trust in
Portugal from 2002 to 2004, we conducted the survey—this fore-
and a counselor to Edelman business remains strong. In emerging
economies, even where trust fell, it casted decline in trust may well have
remained much higher than levels been realized.
Q: What should leading European
nations do to rebuild trust? recorded throughout much of the
rest of the world (figure 6, page 7). Globally, younger and older
A: The perception of the
current crisis in the EU stems Significantly, in China, the trust-in-
informed publics now trust
from a lack of confidence in the business score rose from 54% last business equally
financial system, exacerbated year to 71% this year, and in Brazil
by the feeling that government Last year’s edition of the Trust Baro-
it rose from 61% to 69%. Overall
is not providing adequate meter marked the first time that
trust levels were high in Japan, India,
answers to the problem. Only the survey studied young informed
and Indonesia, a country new to this
with transparent policies will it publics (ages 25 to 34). The results
year’s Barometer.
be possible for government to showed that many younger people,
regain the confidence of the The incongruity may well be attributed historically cynical about business,
European public. Transparency, to the fact that people in emerging tended to trust it more than their
solidarity between government economies traditionally credit business older counterparts (ages 35 to 64) in
and business, and the ability of many regions of the globe.
with having introduced an improved
government to anticipate similar
standard of living—thus the higher
problems are essential to This year, the younger cohort’s more
levels of trust.
stabilize the situation.
trusting attitude has just about
A closer look at the data, however, vanished, and their trust in business
indicates that this advantage may be mirrors that of the older group.

The Trust Divide

Trust in business <50%
among 25-to-64-year-olds

Trust in business >50%
among 25-to-64-year-olds

Although disparities exist in the Figure 6: In emerging economies, trust in business remains high
growing economies of Russia (70%
of 25-to-34-year-olds trust business How much do you trust business to do what is right?
vs. 45% of 35-to-64-year-olds),
Mexico (78% vs. 65%), and India 100
(78% vs. 65%), for the most part, High and heading higher Falling but still high Debuts high
younger and older respondents now
trust business equally.
70 75% 74%
71% 69%
Large drops in trust in business 60 65% 65% 68%
among the younger group occurred 50 54%
in France (52% to 32%), the United 51% 49%
States (60% to 32%), and South
Korea (52% to 32%), reflecting the
overall lower levels of trust in busi-
ness in these established economies. 10 2008
Global China Brazil Mexico India Indonesia
Lower trust in business is not
government’s gain Informed publics ages 35 to 64 2008 2009
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest
Conventional wisdom holds that when
trust in one institution falls, another
will experience the benefit of an
increase in trust. This year’s findings
disproved that notion. Overall, trust
in government did not rise to offset a
loss for business (figure 7).

Figure 7: Trust in government did not rise to offset lower trust in business
How much do you trust government to do what is right?

Trust down Trust steady Trust up New
79% 80%
74% in 2009
63% 64%
51% 51% 52% 53%
50 49% 49%
43%44% 43% 45%45% 43%
39% 39% 41% 40% 38% 41% 39%
40 37% 38%
34% 35%35% 35%36% 34% 35% 33%
30% 32%
30 29% 27%
. ia . zil
l en U.S xic
Ind ain rea lan
d an nc
e ina Ita
ly ssi
U.K an
s da lan
d sia ali
Me Sp Ko Ire Jap Fra Ch Ru rm rla Ca
na Po Bra ne str
Sw S. Ge e o Au
Neth Ind

Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in 20 countries; Global total: 18 countries (excludes Australia and Indonesia) 2008 2009
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

Business is still more trusted than health care, human rights—leading lower in Europe than they do in the
government in 13 of the 20 markets to increased levels of trust among United States, and they badly trail
we surveyed. Respondents trust informed publics that these organi- German, Swedish, and Canadian
government more than business only zations will do what is right. companies in being trusted. Only
in Germany, Canada, Italy, France, in China do American companies
the Netherlands, Australia, and Swedish, German, and Canadian remain in the highest rank, more
China. Given the pervasive role highly regarded by the Chinese (at
companies retain top trusted spot a 75% level of trust) than they are
the Chinese government plays in
the country’s everyday life, it’s not In an economy where the majority by Americans themselves (62% of
surprising that 80% of respondents of corporations are now multi- whom trust U.S.-based companies).
trust government to do what is right. nationals, an important question
emerges: Which country’s companies Interestingly, while Barometer resp-
Trust in government remained steady command the most trust? ondents in China assert the highest
or declined in 12 of the 20 countries trust in business in the world,
surveyed, with the largest drops in The most trusted companies are Chinese businesses are among the
Sweden (63% to 39%) and the United headquartered in Sweden, Germany, least-trusted companies globally.
States (39% to 30%). Trust in govern- and Canada (figure 9, page 9). Companies headquartered in Russia
ment rose in eight countries, with the These three countries have held the share an equally low share of trust
largest gains in the emerging econo- “most trusted spot” for the past three around the world (24%).
mies of Poland (11% to 33%) and Brazil years of Trust Barometer surveys.
(22% to 51%). Gauged for the first With this data in hand, the implica-
time this year, trust in government in As they have in previous years, tions of the cross-national sale of
Indonesia and Australia is at mid-point American companies continue to a brand such as Volvo—which has
levels of 52% and 53%, respectively. suffer from a trust discount in Western roots in Sweden, is now owned
Europe. The United States is the only by America’s Ford, and is being
NGOs remain highly trusted in Western nation whose identity causes shopped to a buyer in China—now
such an effect on its brands. Ameri- seem much greater than what once
every region, except Asia Pacific can companies rank 25 to 30 points met the eye.
Of the four institutions tracked by the
Trust Barometer, NGOs command the
most trust. In every region except Asia
Pacific, they are trusted more than Figure 8: NGOs most trusted institution in every region except Asia Pacific
business, government, and media
(figure 8). Around the world, NGOs How much do you trust each institution to do what is right?
are the only institution trusted by
more than 50% of informed publics. 100

Although NGOs earned fourth place
among trusted institutions in the Asia
Pacific markets, it’s important to note 70
68% 67%
that growth in the non-governmental 60
61% 61%
sector has been strong and steady 50 54%
58% 57% 56%
over the past few years in this region. 50% 47%
45% 45% 46%
40 42% 40% 40%
For example, trust in NGOs among 39%
30 32% 32%
Barometer respondents in China was
31% in 2004 and 36% in 2005 and 20

jumped to 60% in 2006, flattening 10
out to 53% by 2009. The increasing 0
affluence of these markets has Global Total North America Latin America Europe Asia Pacific
brought about increased aware-
ness of the kinds of issues that Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in 20 countries NGOs Business Media Government
NGOs take on—the environment, Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

Figure 9: Companies headquartered in Sweden, Germany, and Canada
remain most trusted; companies in China and Russia trusted the least
How much do you trust global companies headquartered in the following
countries to do what is right?


80 76%
73% 74% 72% 74% 71% 71%
70 68% 68%
62% 60% 60%
60 59%
53% 52% 54% 50% 53%
40 36%
30 28%
24% 26% 24%
Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg is
10 battling a severe economic downturn and
0 protectionist measures that could threaten
en an
y da K. ds nc
d S. ain ly
d ina ia
ed na U. an U. Sp Ita Ch ss a European-wide economic recovery.
Sw rm Ca erl Fra Ire Po Ru
Ge th Known for consensus-building, Borg drew
attention for saying that it’s “very important
Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in 18 countries
2008 2009 to point out that we are trying to solve a
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest
crisis and that [means] doing what is right,
not being nice to banks.” Notwithstanding
the country’s fiscal woes, trust in business
to do what is right rose in Sweden by 12
Figure 10: Technology remains most trusted industry sector globally points—and for the third straight year,
companies based in Sweden top the list
How much do you trust businesses in each of the following industries to do of most trusted businesses.
what is right?

Technology 77%
Biotech/life sciences 65%
Health care industry 61%
Automotive 62%
CPG manufacturers
Energy 57%
2008 N/A
Banks 45%
Media companies 42%
Insurance 40%

Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in 18 countries 2008 2009
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

Obama and Business Trust in nearly every industry banking and automotive—suffered the
falls; technology remains greatest declines. Trust in banks was
A QUESTION FOR... nearly cut in half—falling from 69%
most trusted to 36%—while the automotive industry
Bob Shrum, senior fellow at experienced a 27-point plunge
New York University’s Wagner
Just as levels of trust in business dif-
fer among countries, a global divide (figure 11).
School of Public Service,
prominent consultant to the between developed and emerging
U.S. Democratic Party, and economies also appears to hold for Viewed together, the U.K., France, and
a counselor to Edelman informed publics’ trust in industries. Germany demonstrated a similar
drop in major industries, with banks
Q: Does the Obama Around the world, technology remains (41% to 27%), energy (44% to 39%),
administration have the the single most trusted industry and media companies (35% to 28%)
tools to forge a recovery? all taking a hit (figure 12, page 11).
sector, with 76% of respondents
A: President Obama is ready telling us that they trust this sector
to do what is right, followed by Yet in several emerging economies,
to listen and move beyond the
politics of one-sided solutions, biotechnology and life sciences. The the industries that are suffering in the
and business has to be open least trusted industries are media West, such as banking and automo-
too. Business can help make the and insurance companies; just 40% tive, remain trusted or have made gains
inevitable increase in financial of respondents trust insurance over the past year (figure 13, page 11).
regulation more effective and companies—a five-point decline from Trust in banks rose by 7 points in
efficient. It can help make the year before (figure 10, page 9). Brazil; trust in media companies rose
progress on trade agreements by 10 points in India. In China, trust
by not rejecting reasonable In the United States, virtually no in banks, automotive, energy, and
worker and environmental stan- major industry was spared the media all increased in the last year,
dards. And clean technologies erosion of informed publics’ trust. again demonstrating how different
can create whole new markets Not surprisingly, the two industries this growing economic powerhouse
for energy companies. seeking government bailouts— is from the major Western markets.

Figure 11: In U.S., trust in every industry declines
How much do you trust businesses in each of the following industries to do what
is right?

In the United States, 80 -33
-27 73% 73%
virtually no major 70
60% 58%
64% 62% 63%
54% 54% 54%
industry was spared 50
49% 50%
40% 42%
the erosion of informed 30
33% 31% 33%
publics’ trust. 20

s e s e t try l y a es s y
nk tiv nie nc en us tai erg arm nc rer log
Ba mo pa ura inm nd Re En Ph cie ctu no
m Ins ter
if es nu
dia En hc h/l ma
Me alt tec G
He Bio CP

Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in the United States 2008 2009
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

Figure 12: In the U.K., France, and Germany, trust in automotive, energy, From Excess to Prudence
banks, and media companies declines
How much do you trust businesses in each of the following industries to do
what is right? David K.P. Li, chairman and
chief executive, Bank of East Asia,
100 and a counselor to Edelman

80 Q: Trust in business and
government is slightly down in
Asia Pacific, but both are faring
60 better than their U.S. and
50 Western Europe counterparts.
40 49% How should business and
44% 41% government work together in
30 39%
35% these turbulent economic times?
20 27% 28%
10 A: The current economic crisis
has given rise to doubts about the
future of Western models of free
Automotive Energy Banks Media companies
enterprise. The model, however,
is strong; the crisis reaffirms that
Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in the U.K., France, Germany 2008 2009 no economy, not even the world’s
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest
largest, can continue to live
beyond its means. Firms based
in Asia have significant global
opportunities as forward-looking
governments continue to encour-
age the development of free
markets and prudent risk-taking.

Figure 13: In emerging economies, industries that suffer in the West remain trusted
How much do you trust businesses in each of the following industries to do what is right?

China India Brazil
100 100 100

90 90 90

80 84% 80 80
83% 83% 81%
80% 79% 81%
70 70 70
72% 72% 72% 72% 71%
60 67% 60 65% 60
50 55% 50 55% 50
40 40 40

30 30 30

20 20 20

10 10 10
0 0 0
e y s s ve y ks ies s
v erg an
k nie oti erg an an nk
m En B pa m En B p Ba
Auto com A uto co
dia dia
Me Me

Informed publics ages 35 to 64 2008 2009
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

Who Can We Trust?
Mirroring the erosion of trust in business this year, trust in every type of source of information about
companies and of every type of spokesperson is down in most markets around the world.
These lower levels of credibility suggest that business must engage with its audiences
through multiple voices on multiple channels, especially since informed publics say they need
to hear information several times before they will believe it.

Credibility of traditional than most traditional sources like considered nearly equally credible by
articles in newspapers (30%) and all age groups surveyed, and for
sources of information wanes
news coverage on the radio (29%). the most part are on par with more
The credibility of all information traditional sources like newspapers,
sources has declined strongly in Around the world, conversations with TV, and radio, signaling the growing
most markets among 35-to-64- company employees and conver- influence of word-of-mouth as a
year-olds in our 18-country tracking sations with friends and peers are source of information about companies.
audience (figure 14). Even the
credibility of business magazines
and stock or industry analyst Figure 14: Credibility of sources of information about a company declines
reports—traditionally the most
trusted sources—has dropped, How credible is each of the following as a source of information about a company?
from 57% to 44% and from 56% to
47%, respectively. 47%
Stock or industry analyst reports
There is particular erosion in trust Articles in business magazines
in television and radio as credible Conversations with your 40%
sources of news about companies. friends and peers 49%
Conversations with 40%
The credibility of television news company employees 2008 N/A
coverage declined from 49% to 36%, 38%
News coverage on the radio 49%
and the credibility of newspaper
Television news coverage 36%
articles fell from 47% to 34%. 49%
Internet search engines such as 35%
Google News or Yahoo! News 2008 N/A
In several countries, some notable
shifts have occurred. In China, tele- Articles in newspapers
vision news coverage, which last Free content sources such as 27%
Wikipedia or Web portals 38%
year was the most credible source
Live communication such as 27%
at 70% (by respondents ages 25 to a CEO speech 2008 N/A
64), is now considered credible by Corporate communications such as 26%
press releases, reports and e-mails 38%
just 47% of the same group and is 24%
A company’s own Web site
slightly less credible than conversa- 31%
tions with friends and peers (49%). Business blogs 19%
2008 N/A
Personal or non-business 16%
In the United States, where analyst blogs or bulletin boards 2008 N/A
reports and articles in business Social networking sites such as 15%
MySpace or Facebook 20%
magazines earn the highest, and 13%
Corporate or product advertising
equal, levels of credibility (46%) 20%

among respondents ages 25 to
64, conversations with company Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in 18 countries 2008 2009
employees (40%) are more credible “Extremely credible” and “very credible” responses only

Experts are most credible Figure 15: Trust in nearly every spokesperson down; academics, industry
spokespeople for a company; experts most credible
CEO credibility hits new low If you heard information about a company from each of these people, how credible
would it be?
The credibility of nearly every
spokesperson is down around the
world. Specialists remain the most 100
credible purveyors of information 90
about a company, with 59% of 80
respondents ages 35 to 64 saying
an academic or an expert on a com-
pany’s industry or issues would be 60
59% 57% 58%
extremely or very credible (figure 15). 50 56%
40 47% 47% 49%
Peers remain a credible source of 38% 39%
30 36%
information about a company. “A 30% 29% 32%
person like yourself” is as credible 20 27%
as an industry analyst, with 47% of 10

respondents saying they find the 0
information they receive from a peer An academic Financial or A person Non-profit Regular CEO of Government
or expert on industry like you organization employee company official or
to be extremely or very credible, and
that company’s analyst or NGO of a regulator
30% saying they find the information industry or issues* representative company
from a regular company employee to
be extremely or very credible. Only *Asked as “an academic” in 2008 2008 2009
27% consider information from a Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in 18 countries
government official or regulator as “Extremely credible” and “very credible” responses only

extremely or very credible.

Since 2003, the Edelman Trust Baro-
meter has tracked the credibility
of CEOs as spokespeople for a Figure 16: CEO credibility hits new low in several countries
company, adding new markets If you received information about a company from a CEO, how credible would it be?
each year. This year, in 18 of the
20 markets surveyed, only 29% of
70 U.S. U.K./ France/Germany
respondents ages 35 to 64 view
information from a CEO as credible. Canada Mexico
Italy Spain
In the United States, which has Ireland Poland
seen a revolving door of high profile Brazil South Korea
CEOs, the credibility of information
from a company’s top leader sits
at a six-year low, at 17%, among
35-to-64-year-olds. New lows also
were reached in Italy, South Korea, 20
and the U.K./France/Germany, among
others, as well as in the emerging 10
economies of Mexico and Brazil,
where business is overall more highly 0
trusted (figure 16). 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

Informed publics ages 35 to 64 in 18 countries
“Extremely credible” and “very credible” responses only

The relatively low levels of trust business blogs, personal or non- Trust in corporate communications
in CEOs as spokespeople should business blogs, or bulletin boards like press releases, reports, and
not be interpreted as an excuse as sources of company information. e-mails fell to 26% from 38%; a
for top business leaders to go silent, Among 35-to-64-year-olds, search company’s own Web site to 24%
as they did in 2003-2005 in the engines emerged as most trusted from 31%; and corporate or product
wake of the Enron, Worldcom, and of all digital channels (35%), with advertising to 13% from 20% among
Parmalat scandals. CEO commu- markedly lower levels of trust for informed publics ages 35 to 64 in
nications should be supported by business (19%) and non-business 18 countries.
other channels, especially employees, (16%) blogs.
who are trusted ambassadors for The Barometer added new questions
company information. One notable exception is South this year about the trustworthiness of
Korea, where 25-to-64-year-olds information about a company from con-
Trust in digital channels also view social networking sites (45%) versations that respondents have with
and personal or non-business blogs a company’s employees, and from
falls, but influence is still felt or bulletin boards (46%) as credible live company communication like a
Trust in digital media sources for news sources of information about a speech by or interview with senior
about companies followed the down- company, attesting to that country’s management. Around the world, con-
ward trend for all media, with free long-standing embrace of social media. versations with employees were the
content sources (such as Wikipedia most trusted of all corporate sources
and Web portals) and social monitored, at 40%, while live com-
All corporate channels lose
networking sites (such as MySpace munications earned a 27% trust level.
and Facebook) losing ground, trust, but employees are
dropping globally among 35-to-64- considered reliable sources These findings suggest that compa-
year-olds from 38% to 27%, and of information nies must employ a mix of channels
20% to 15%, respectively. to help them earn the trust of
With business less trusted this year stakeholders and ensure that
For the first time, this year’s Barom- than last, it’s not surprising that trust messages are communicated to—
eter asked respondents about their in the company-generated commu- and embraced by—employees, who
trust in Internet search engines (such nication channels that business uses can serve as trusted conduits of
as Google News and Yahoo! News), to reach stakeholders also declined. company information.

Multiple Information Sources Enhance Credibility 10 or
Don’t know/
refused Once
more times 7% 6%
Think about everything you see or hear every day about companies, 5%
6 to 9 times Twice
whether it is positive or negative. How many times in general do 6% 16%
you need to hear something about a specific company to believe
that the information is likely to be true?

When asked to volunteer a number, 60% of informed publics ages 3 to 5 times
25 to 64 in 20 countries say they need to hear information about 60%
a company three to five times to believe that the information is
credible. This finding suggests that limiting a corporate message or 4 or 5 times
announcement to a single channel or spokesperson will leave doubt 25%
in the audience’s mind as to the information’s veracity. Distributing
3 times
the information on multiple channels will improve its chances for 35%
believability and acceptance.
Informed publics ages 25 to 64 in 20 countries

A Call for Government Intervention
The mandate from the respondents to this year’s Trust Barometer is clear: the old order, in
which business had the freedom to operate autonomously and without government restraint,
is over. But the new appetite for stricter government regulation of markets does not provide
business with an “out.” Informed publics expect business to partner with other institutions to
address fiscal and social ills and find solutions to them.

A lack of trust triggers desire Among our global sample of 25-to-
for more government regulation 64-year-old informed publics in 20
countries, respondents by a 3-to-1
and control margin say that government should
In many parts of the world, the intervene to regulate industry or
credit crisis and the economic nationalize companies to restore
downturn of late 2008 brought public trust (figure 17). This sentiment
calls for government regulation of was backed strongly in Western
troubled industries—and sparked Europe, led by France (84%), and in
new debate about the extent to North America, with 70% support
which governments should intervene for this statement in Canada and
in business. Overwhelmingly, Trust 61% in the United States.
Barometer respondents want gov-
ernment to intercede.

In November 2008, the CEOs of the Big Figure 17: By a 3:1 margin, informed publics agree government should
Three automakers—Richard Wagoner impose stricter regulations and greater control over business in all industries
of General Motors, Robert Nardelli of
Chrysler, and Alan Mulally of Ford—testify How strongly do you agree or disagree that your government should in the future impose
at a hearing on the automotive industry stricter regulations and greater control over business across all industry sectors?
bailout conducted by the Financial
Services Committee of the U.S. House
of Representatives. The federal
government approved $17.4 billion in 65%
loans ($13.4 for GM and $4 billion for
Chrysler); Ford said it did not need
government aid to survive and thrive.


Neither agree
nor disagree
Don’t know 12%
Informed publics ages 25 to 64 in 20 countries

Health and Business In the major Western European and the response is remarkable in a
economies of the U.K., France, and country that in recent decades has
A QUESTION FOR... Germany, three-quarters of respon- given business free reign to lead.
dents agree that government should
Julie Gerberding, M.D., step in to prevent future financial Four pressing global issues
director of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention
crises (73%, 75%, and 74%, respec- examined as a yardstick
tively), using whatever means it sees
from 2002 until 2009, and
appropriate, including lending money
for trust
a counselor to Edelman
or guaranteeing deposits. This belief For the first time, the Edelman Trust
Q: How can business was echoed in the BRIC countries Barometer asked respondents to
contribute to better health as well, with Brazil (68%), Russia answer a series of questions about
and more affordable care? (79%), India (78%), and China (73%) four pressing societal issues—the
all showing strong support for gov- financial credit crisis, energy costs,
A: The fundamental question ernment intervention in the activity of global warming, and access to
is not how we get affordable
banks and the financial industry. affordable health care. The goal was
care, but more health for the
money we’re investing. It’ll to determine informed publics’
In the United States, where govern- attitudes about who they believe
take a deliberate partnership on
ment has stepped in to bail out the is responsible for causing these
the part of people, businesses,
financial and automobile industries, problems—and who must solve them.
and government. “Health and
safety” should be the way just under one-half (49%) of respon-
all companies do business. dents agree that the free market As figure 18 shows, respondents
Baseline benefits should include should be allowed to function believe that government and busi-
tele-working, health screening independently. This is the first year ness share responsibility for causing
and education. Mandating that the Barometer asked this question, these global issues.
tobacco-free workplaces is the
single most important thing
businesses can do.

Figure 18: Government and business share responsibility for causing global issues
How responsible are each of the following entities for contributing to these global issues?

Financial Credit Crisis Energy Costs

81% 84% 80% 79%
Government Businesses Government Businesses
and regulators and regulators

Global Warming Access to Affordable Health Care

77% 81% 80% 63%
Government Businesses Government Businesses
and regulators and regulators

Informed publics ages 25 to 64 in 20 countries
Responses 6-9 only on 1-9 scale; 9 = highest

Government, not NGOs, held Figure 19: Government held most responsible for solving global issues
most responsible for solving Which one entity do you think should be most responsible for solving each of
these issues these global issues?

Non-governmental organizations are 100
the most trusted institution in 12 of 20
countries we surveyed. Yet, despite
the high levels of trust they receive,
NGOs are not held most responsible 70
for finding solutions to issues like 60
the financial credit crisis, energy 50 53%
costs, global warming, and access 47%
to affordable health care. That 41%
responsibility falls to government: 30

respondents globally believe govern- 20 24%
ment is most responsible for solving 17%
4% 6%
problems like the credit crisis, global 2% 9% 3%
warming, and energy costs (figure 19). Energy Costs Financial Credit Crisis Global Warming Affordable Health Care

Business has lost ability Informed publics ages 25 to 64 Government and regulators Business NGOs
in 20 countries
to lead unilaterally; must
partner with others to solve
global issues Figure 20: Business has lost ability to lead unilaterally; must partner with
Business, however, should step up others to solve global issues
to partner with government on Thinking about the role that business should play in helping to solve global
these global challenges, respondents issues such as energy costs, the financial credit crisis, global warming, or
say. When asked what role business access to affordable health care, which of the following statements is closest to
should play to help solve issues your view? 1) Business has to partner with governments and advocacy groups
such as energy costs, the financial to solve these global issues; it cannot do it alone; 2) Business should focus
credit crisis, global warming, and on what they themselves can do on these global issues, whether or not govern-
access to affordable health care, ments or others partner with them; 3) Business should not play a part in helping
two-thirds of 25-to-64-year-olds to solve these global issues
surveyed around the world believe
that businesses should partner 100
with governments and other third 90
parties to address global issues 80 83%
(figure 20). The partnership model is
especially welcomed in Latin America, 69%
where 83% of respondents say 60 66% 65% 65%
business should team up with third 50 57%
parties to take on pressing prob- 40
lems. Virtually no one believes that 39%
30 33%
business has no role in addressing 31% 30% 29%
these challenges.
10 15%
3% 2% 4% 2% 2%

Global North America EU Asia-Pacific Latin America BRIC

Informed publics ages 25 to 64 Partner with governments Do what it Play no role
in 20 countries and third parties can alone

Workers in China discard milk adulterated with melamine, which sickened more than 300,000 children and caused eight deaths in countries
around the world in 2008. Government inspectors discovered that 21 Chinese companies were producing milk, infant formula, and other
products tainted by the industrial chemical. At least 11 countries stopped all imports of mainland Chinese dairy products and the scandal
led to the arrest, firing, or resignation of several government officials and company leaders.

The Business Case for Trust
This year’s Trust Barometer leaves no doubt that there are tangible consequences for
businesses that gain—or lack—the trust of their stakeholders. Trust influences consumer
spending, corporate reputation, and a company’s ability to navigate the regulatory environment.

Trust hits the bottom line Respondents inclined to trust busi- important factors in determining a
ness in general are more supportive company’s reputation (figure 22,
For the first time, the Barometer mea- of a company in its efforts to sell its page 19). It ranks just below the
sured the actions informed publics products or services; pursue changes quality of a company’s products
take based on how much—or how in local laws; or seek preferential and its treatment of employees, on
little—they trust a company. Over a treatment for tax, employment or par with a company’s financial
12-month period, 91% of 25-to-64- environmental purposes than those future, and more important than job
year-olds said they had bought a who don’t trust business. creation, giving back to the com-
product or service from a company munity, and innovation in products
they trusted, while 77% had refused Hard and soft assets on and services. Transparency, defined
to buy a product or service from a dis- equal footing as frequent and honest communica-
trusted company (figure 21, page 19). tion about the business, also outranks
Among our global audience of 25-
those attributes.
We also find that trust is connected to-64-year-olds, being able to trust
to a company’s license to operate. a company is one of the most

Figure 21: Through personal action, trust has tangible benefits Candid Communication
Thinking back over the past 12 months, have you taken any of the following
actions in relation to companies that you trust? Have you taken any of the
following actions in relation to companies that you do not trust? Doug Schoen, an advisor
to U.S. President Bill Clinton
Personal actions taken with... from 1994 to 2000, and a
counselor to Edelman
A distrusted company A trusted company

77% 91%
Q: How should corporations
communicate their business
Refused to buy their products/services Chose to buy their products/services
and social objectives using
72% 76% their CEOs, executives, and
Criticized them to a friend or colleague Recommended them to a friend or colleague everyday employees?

55% A: The Edelman Trust Barometer
Paid a premium for their products/services compellingly suggests that
corporations from CEOs down
34% 42% must stay in close touch with
Shared negative company opinions/experiences online Shared positive company opinions/experiences online stakeholders, respond quickly
to questions, and get out any
17% 26%
changed circumstances or bad
Sold shares Bought shares news as it develops. Candor,
consistency, and interactivity
Informed publics ages 25 to 64 in 20 countries are the three words that
come to mind when asked
to summarize the implications
of this year’s study.

Figure 22: Communication and trust as important to reputation as value
for money
How important is each of the following factors to the overall reputation of a company?

Offers high quality products or services 94%
Is a company that treats its employees well 93%

Communicates frequently and honestly 91%
on the state of its business
Is a company I trust 91%
Gives value for money 91%

Stays within the spirit and the 90%
letter of the law in [country]
Has a strong financial future 90%
Has senior leadership that can be trusted 89%
Has a strong commitment to
protect the environment 87%
Is an innovator of new 87%
products, services, or ideas
Creates and keeps jobs in my area 86%
Commits time, money, and resources 85%
to the greater public good

Informed publics ages 25 to 64 in 20 countries

Public Engagement: The Road to Rebuilding Trust
If businesses are to regain trust, they will need to adopt a strategy of Public Engagement,
by means of a shift in policy and communications. The essence of Public Engagement is the
commitment of companies to say—and do as they say.
Organizations must be forthright and honest in their actions and communications. In a time of utter
distrust, business leaders must make the case for actions and then demonstrate their progress
against those goals. When problems arise within companies, stakeholders need to see senior
executives take a visible lead in acknowledging errors, correcting mistakes, and working with
employees to avoid similar problems going forward. This adherence to transparency is at the
core of each of the four pillars of Public Engagement:

Private Sector Diplomacy Mutual Social Responsibility
“I would like to talk about the big Business has both the opportunity Companies must realign their
issues facing our country and the role and the responsibility to become a business practices so that they
that we can play as retailers. …To primary actor in developing solutions benefit society and the bottom line.
those who say that now is not the to global problems. Companies must Companies must integrate into their
time for health care reform, for a new
move beyond the silo of their profes- products and services approaches
energy policy, for higher quality schools,
for comprehensive immigration reform, sional trade association to partner to societal problems such as climate
I say you are wrong.” with governments and NGOs. They change, health care, and energy
must address not only the issues independence. Immediate stake-
“Do special interests refuse to yield on that have an impact on their bottom holders like employees and customers
any part of their agenda, regardless of line, but also the world’s most pressing must be invited to participate in a
the benefit to the common good? …Or problems. This is an opportunity for company’s social responsibility dec-
do we come together—government,
business to act as a private sector isions and actions—and the public
NGOs and business—in a new approach
to solving the big problems facing diplomat, recommending appropriate at large must be kept informed about
our country?” regulatory frameworks across borders. the progress the company is making
If companies fail to take the initiative toward those goals.
to do so, they run the risk of having
policies thrust upon them.

Excerpts from remarks made
by H. Lee Scott, Jr., former
president and CEO, Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc.* to the National
Retail Federation
In the United States, coffee roaster and
retailer Starbucks* invites customers to
partner as a force for good through
efforts like (STARBUCKS)RED™ and
My Starbucks Idea. The company’s “I’m in!”
program attracted 65,000 people on
Facebook who each pledged five hours
of their time to volunteering, a total of
*An Edelman client. 1.3 million hours of community service.

“Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc.
announced in late December it would cut
executive pay in half, and many salaried
employees would see cuts of as much
as 15 percent.” —The Wall Street Journal

Continuous Conversation
Sixty percent (60%) of our respondents inform, with a real commitment to
said they need to hear information speed, the conversations among the
Shared Sacrifice about a company three to five times new influencers—always underway
CEOs must demonstrate that they before they believe it. The CEO should on blogs, in discussion forums, and
too feel the burden of the recession. set forth the company’s position, but bulletin boards. Every company can
At a time when workers are losing then it must be echoed by others— be a media company by creating
jobs and investors are seeing stock by individuals who often sit outside easily accessed, substantive on-
values plummet, voluntary executive the company—including industry line content that can be improved by
pay cuts and forfeiting of bonuses experts, academics, and ordinary cit- the public.
send a powerful message that leaders izens. Companies will be well served
are in tune with the realities facing by moving from a mindset of control
employees. Leaders also must com- to one of contribution. Mainstream
municate with employees about the media continues to be an important
problems confronting the company way to reach opinion formers, but it is
and welcome their voices. This type not the only one. Companies should
of transparency and collaborative
spirit will help engage them in finding
and embracing solutions.

The JNJ BTW blog from Johnson & Johnson*
is among several initiatives the company has
launched to invite publics to share their views
on what the company is doing as well as
participate in the conversation about health.

*An Edelman client.

trust A decade of insights from the Edelman Trust Barometer

Rising influence of NGOs

Fall of the celebrity CEO

2003 Earned media more credible than advertising

2004 U.S. companies in Europe suffer trust discount

2005 Trust shifts from “authorities” to peers

2006 “A person like me” is most credible spokesperson

2007 Business more trusted than government and media

2008 Young influencers have more trust in business

2009 Business must partner with government to regain trust

© Edelman, 2009. All rights reserved.