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How to fix public trust crisis

By ROBIN FISHER, senior area vice president at Salesforce

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We are in the midst of several crises. A health crisis, an economic crisis, a climate crisis, and a crisis of trust. 

According to Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer, trust in government, NGOs and media organisations has declined further over the past twelve months. Trust in business remains the highest. Indeed, respondents in 18 of 27 countries surveyed said they trusted businesses more than government.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened personal and societal fears, most notably around job losses and climate change. According to the Barometer, those with less education, less money and fewer resources are being unfairly burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness, and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic. 

As our economies seek to recover, 56% of respondents said they worry the pandemic will accelerate the rate at which companies replace human workers with AI and robots.

The need for trust could not come at a more crucial time as the world delivers one of the largest mass vaccination campaigns in human history. Trust in institutions, information and science, as well as partnerships between public and private sectors, are more essential than ever as we overcome different distribution issues.

At the same time, around two-thirds of people want CEOs to step in and take the lead in areas that the government has been lacking. A large majority expect CEOs to speak out on societal issues, to embrace sustainability and long-term thinking over short-term profits. 

In the face of monumental challenges, together, with leadership and the help of technology we can work to respond and recover from the pandemic and ensure transparency in our fight against climate change.

Reliable Information, and reskilling revolution

As institutions around the world focus on vaccines distribution, it is critical to empower both public health leaders and communities with information and data so they can move quickly and effectively.

For technology to be effective, it must be built responsibly and trusted. It can help bring consistent, reliable and truthful information about authorised COVID-19 vaccines, including about their safety and efficacy. As we move into the last mile of vaccine distribution, digital health credentialing will be more important than ever as businesses, event venues, airlines and countless other organisations think through their reopening and recovery strategies.

We have seen organisations around the world apply technology at hyperspeed to address challenges that the pandemic created – innovating not only to serve and stay connected with customers but also to ensure their safety. The willingness of businesses to adapt – and ability to implement digital systems – will be a key determinant of success, even long-term survival.

The pandemic has also changed how we work. Some jobs will go away, new ones will emerge. Like employers, employees also need to digitise. Business has a role to play in helping people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic to acquire new, relevant digital skills. To build more inclusive and robust economies, digital training and reskilling must be central, especially in supporting disproportionately-affected groups.

Transparency and sustainability

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of transparency in building trust, and that technology and sustainability go hand in hand. Just as communities have taken the task of responding to COVID-19 into their own hands, for instance, to track infection rates, similarly, strong leadership will be needed to navigate climate change. This explains why more and more companies are embracing new digital ways of tracking, analysing and reporting environmental data through cloud platforms.

How companies behave today will shape the way they – and business in general – will be perceived long after the pandemic. The crises we face provide institutions around the world a chance to reassess their values and think about how to become more responsible and sustainable. Every business has an urgent responsibility to act and do more than simply maximise shareholder value. Together, they can rebuild public trust and make the world a better place for all stakeholders.

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