Business loses mandate to lead according to global opinion leader survey



    Majority of Canadians now look to government for increased regulation

    TORONTO, Feb. 27 /CNW/ - In just one year, business has lost the trust of
two-thirds (66 per cent) of informed publics in Canada, with 70 per cent
looking for greater government control over business across all industries,
according to the 10th international study of opinion leaders conducted by
Edelman, the world's largest independent public relations firm. The study,
known as the Edelman Trust Barometer, is the most extensive global trust
survey of opinion leaders aged 25 to 64 in 20 countries.
    "There has been a crisis of trust across the globe this year, and it's
clear that Canada has not been immune," said Freda Colbourne, President and
CEO, Edelman Canada. "The loss of trust in business is particularly evident in
lowered levels of trust this year in the consumer packaged goods, media and
insurance industries."
    The results are in sharp contrast to findings from just one year ago,
when trust in business had risen 9 per cent over 2007 and business was tied
with NGOs as one of the most trusted institutions among our tracking audience
of opinion leaders ages 35-64. Now, business has dropped to the bottom of the
trust barometer in Canada, with media, NGOs and government all claiming higher
percentages of trust.
    "To regain trust and re-earn the mantle of authority, business needs to
make substantive shifts in both policy and communications," said Richard
Edelman, President and CEO, Edelman. "The economic crisis demands that
business recast its role in society and act in the public interest as well as
for private gain. This means a new cooperative approach to government and
advocacy groups and real change in business practices, from executive
compensation to supply chain. All of this must be communicated with
transparency. Without this type of public engagement, which fuels trust, it
will be difficult for business to help rebuild the financial system or earn
the license to innovate, much less operate."

    Government should step in

    By a 3:1 margin, global respondents say government should intervene to
regulate industry or nationalize companies to restore public trust. In Canada,
more than half of respondents (57 per cent) say government should step in to
prevent future financial crises, and only 36 per cent feel the free market
should be allowed to function independently.
    Aside from access to affordable healthcare, which Canadians steadfastly
confirm as a government responsibility (79 per cent), Canadian opinion leaders
feel government and business share the responsibility for causing global
issues such as energy costs, global warming and the financial credit crisis.
And, while Canadians feel the government holds the primary responsibility for
solving these issues, two thirds (66 per cent) of opinion leaders believe
collaboration must take place and expect businesses to partner with
governments and advocacy groups to develop solutions.
    "More than ever, Canadians are looking to government to have a stronger
presence not only with traditionally government-regulated programs such as
healthcare but with other major global issues," says Colbourne. "In fact,
Canada is in the global minority this year, with more than half of opinion
leaders putting their trust in our government to do what is right."

    Canadians 'act' when they trust or don't trust

    The trust void in business has already started to affect personal action.
For the first time, the survey explored people's direct actions toward trusted
and distrusted companies, and 89 per cent of Canadian opinion leaders said
they refuse to buy products or services from a company they distrust - more
than 10 per cent higher than global respondents (77 per cent). A further 85
per cent have criticized a distrusted company to a friend or colleague - again
higher than global respondents, where 72 per cent did the same.

    Canadian companies still among most trusted in the world

    While business has lost trust among informed publics in Canada, outsiders
looking in still hold Canadian companies in high regard. For the fourth year
in a row, Canadian-headquartered companies are among the world's most trusted
organizations, sharing the top spots with Sweden and Germany. Companies in
China and Russia were cited as the least trusted.
    "This ongoing trust in Canadian companies is a bright spot for us on the
world stage," said Colbourne. "Being a Canadian business is an asset now more
than ever as global economies struggle to rebuild, and provides an opportunity
for us to be leaders in public engagement."

    Who do Canadians trust?

    In Canada, 58 per cent said they need to hear information about a company
three to five times before they believe it. When it comes to disseminating
that information, experts, peers and employees top the 2009 list for
credibility, with academics perceived as most credible, increasing from 57 per
cent in 2008 to 71 per cent in 2009.
    In the media, while the credibility of traditional sources such as
newspapers declined around the globe, they remained the most credible
purveyors of company information in Canada, remaining steady over last year
among informed publics aged 25-64. Corporate channels for trustworthy
information fared the worst, with corporate or product advertising alone
dropping from 20 to nine per cent credibility in Canada year over year. And
while globally only 29 per cent trust information about a company from a CEO,
the same holds true for only 19 per cent of informed publics aged 35-64 in
Canada.

    Trust and Reputation

    Canadian respondents cited frequent, honest communication by companies on
the state of their business as the number one factor in determining a
company's reputation (97 per cent). In addition, trust in a company itself (94
per cent) ranks just below the way a company treats its employees (96 per
cent), whether a company stays within the spirit and letter of the law (95 per
cent), and the quality of a company's products (95 per cent). These attributes
are all more important to a company's reputation than their financial future,
job creation statistics, or innovation in products and services.

    About the Edelman Trust Barometer

    The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm's tenth trust and
credibility survey. The survey was produced by research firm StrategyOne and
consisted of 30-minute telephone interviews conducted using the fielding
services of World One from November 5 - December 14, 2008. The 2009 Edelman
Trust Barometer survey sampled 4,475 informed publics in two age groups (25-34
and 35-64). All informed publics met the following criteria: college-educated;
household income in the top quartile for their age in their country; read or
watch business/news media at least several times a week; follow public policy
issues in the news at least several times a week.

    About Edelman

    Edelman is the world's largest independent public relations firm, with
3,200 employees in 53 offices worldwide. With offices in Toronto, Montreal and
Vancouver, Edelman Canada is a full-service communications, digital and public
affairs firm, specializing in corporate, healthcare, government relations,
consumer marketing, technology and social media. 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 www.edelman.com.





For further information:

For further information: Katie Clark, Edelman Toronto, Tel: (416)
979-1120 ext No. 231, Katie.clark@edelman.com; or Amy Gregus, Edelman
Montreal, Tel: (514) 844-6665 ext. No. 222, Amy.gregus@edelman.com

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