ART: ISTOC K / ULIM I
30 FINANCE & DEVELOPMENT | June 2020
Trust: Competence and ethics
Trust today is granted on two distinct attributes: competence
(delivering on promises) and ethical behavior (doing the right thing
and working to improve society). Currently, no one institution is
considered both competent and ethical.
(no institution seen as both competent and ethical, competence score, net ethical score)
Less competent Competent
Trust moves local
Trust has moved from a top-down vertical model, dependent on traditional
leaders, to to a horizontal one, in which people rely more on friends, family,
and “a person like me.”
People trust or distrust in response to the
decisions and messages of authority ﬁgures
People trust or distrust based
on their interaction with a
peer, or “a person like me”
People trust or distrust based on their
interaction with others who are personally
close to them in their community, workplace,
shifts in trust
How the vectors
of trust have
Trust is at rock bottom, and we must urgently restore it
THE CORONAVIRUS POSES an extraordinary threat to
global health and ec onomic prosperity. It has also
rearmed the lack of tr ust in our institutions by
triggering na ncial market volatility and ang er over
slow or inadequate government responses.
Before COVID-19, many countries were enjoying
strong economic performance and nea rly full employ-
ment. e major societal institutions— government,
business, media, and nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs)—should have been trusted. Instead, the 2020
Edelman Trust Barometer— published in January—
showed that globally people do not trust a ny insti-
tution to do what is right. e key to this pa radox is
the shifting dy namics of trust over the past 20 years .
In this period, ve seismic events signicantly
altered people’s trust: concerns about globaliz ation,
the Iraq War, the global recession of 2008– 09, the
rise of China and India, a nd the advent of social
networks. e second decade brought a tr ust divide
between elites and the genera l population, alongside
government failure to lead change. Disinformation
and fear beca me rife.
COVID-19 is the new decade’s rst jolt to the
system. In this ex traordinarily di cult moment,
institutions have a duty to outperform expec tations
and rebuild public condence. Most people want to
resume listening to exper ts—who have been much
maligned in recent ti mes.
Government must demonstrate its competence in
responding to the crisis. Media must b e an objective
arbiter of the facts. Business can provide necessar y
products and reliable information. NGOs must help
develop a vaccine and ensure its fai r distribution.
is is the time for institut ions to work together,
laying the groundwork for a new era of trust.
RICHARD EDELMAN is the CEO of Edelman, a global commu-
nications ﬁrm. This feature is based on Edelman's 2020 Trust
Barometer and the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special
Report: Trust and the Coronavirus.
The nature of trust has changed