The fall of Lehman Brothers last September triggered a collapse in financial markets, and then the real economy. It also signaled a further decline in the public’s trust in business. One year on, has anything changed?
At the start of 2009, only 36 percent of the U.S. public trusted business to “do what is right”—down dramatically from 59 percent one year before—according to surveys from the PR firm Edelman. But as of this July, trust levels in business had recovered somewhat, to 48 percent. Yet just as with the economic recovery overall, it is far too early to declare victory.
This is about more than winning a popularity contest. Without the public’s trust, business faces cynical consumers, unhappy employees, and public officials that tap into this mood with punitive legislation: hardly the conditions most companies want and need.
Before considering how to make further progress, it’s best to diagnose how this happened.