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Businesses under more pressure to save society

Data: Edelman Trust Barometer; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

People expect corporations and CEOs to continue addressing the most pressing social and political issues even after the pandemic is over, according to new data.

Why it matters: While this provides opportunities for some companies to grow, it also puts more pressure on CEOs and business leaders to address more than just shareholder returns.

Details: Trust in the government is at an all-time low globally, according to the latest mid-year Edelman Trust Barometer study.

  • Businesses are now the most trusted institution in the world, a role they assumed mid-way through the pandemic, once people realized governments were ill-equipped to develop and rollout vaccines alone.
  • Globally, the majority (60%) of people say their country will not be able to overcome its challenges without business’ involvement. Across every issue measured, people say businesses have outperformed government.

Be smart: Most people (77%) said their employer has become their most trusted institution, which has put much more pressure on CEOs to prioritize societal and political issues in addition to business outcomes.

  • Roughly 80% of employees, on average, expect their company to act on issues such as vaccine hesitancy, climate change, automation, misinformation, and racism.
  • Before the pandemic, customers were considered the most important business stakeholders. Now, it's employees.

Yes, but: There is a stark difference between people's perception of different institutions, depending on how advanced their country and economy is.

  • People in developed countries, like the U.S., U.K., France, Japan and Canada, are far less trusting of government compared to people in developing countries, like India, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and the UAE.

What to watch: The study finds that businesses could be in this position for a long time.

  • And even though vaccines have proven so far to be effective, a majority people of people globally say they are "still in a pandemic mindset" and aren't yet comfortable not doing common activities, like shopping in stores, eat out or sending kids to school, even those with vaccines.

Methodology: The survey includes 16,800 people in 14 markets: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, S. Africa, S. Korea, UAE, UK, and U.S.

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