Building trust is critical to success: for business and society

The pandemic has emphasised the extent to which trust can be earned or lost depending how you respond to threats and challenges. Many organisations have built stronger relationships with customers, employees and their communities by being accountable and transparent.

Yet we also see trust being eroded every day, by forces such as the successful online spread of misinformation, unethical business practices and high profile instances of data loss or misuse. Our 24th Annual CEO Survey found 61% of UK business leaders are concerned about misinformation and 47% are concerned about a lack of trust in business. 

This matters, as society’s ability to grow, overcome challenges and seize opportunities is built on trust. People need to trust that organisations will deliver on their promises. That their health isn’t being jeopardised by exposure to misinformation. That financial markets are stable and fair. That their personal data and right to privacy is being respected. And that we share common values and aspirations. 

Society’s collective response to generational challenges such as economic uncertainty and climate change will only be successful if we all trust we are pulling in the same direction and taking collaborative action. For example, as we begin to decarbonise our economy, some industries will face a heavier burden. Business needs to take the lead in creating green jobs, but it requires close and transparent collaboration with the government and educators to ensure we're building a skilled workforce with fair access to opportunities in their local area.

Trust in The New Equation

We recognise the value of trust, which is why it’s at the heart of our global strategy, The New Equation.

“We are investing in the people, technologies and skills necessary to address the needs of our clients, their stakeholders and wider society. For example, we're investing in our capabilities around ESG, such as continuing to build our credibility in climate reporting, helping businesses transition through Net Zero and ensuring that transition is fair and just."

Kevin Ellis, Senior Partner at PwC UK 

Helping clients rebuild trust with their stakeholders is critical if businesses are going to be successful in leading a recovery that creates a fairer, sustainable economy. This will require bold action and measured risks to transform business models, invest in new capabilities and seize on opportunities – something that can’t be achieved if people don’t have confidence in their leaders.

“Risk surrounds us and needs to be managed and mitigated, not simply avoided or feared, in order to create opportunities, because that's the only way you're going to grow," says Mohammad Khan, General Insurance Leader, PwC UK. "If you know that something is going to come up, or you want to launch an innovative product, you have to bring everyone on that journey with you."

Building trust with your people

To build and maintain trust with their people and wider stakeholders, organisations must take steps to create a genuine two-way dialogue. This ensures accountability and transparency, and creates more purpose-driven organisations that better reflect the concerns and goals of an increasingly diverse workforce.

Again, this focus on people is one of the foundations of the New Equation. We're building a progressive workforce by continuing to recruit and invest in diverse talent and skills, while offering our people flexibility over how and when they work. We believe this tailored experience is key to maintaining a trusted relationship and ensuring our people are equipped, and feel empowered to solve our clients’ biggest problems.

“You've really got to understand the person, the individual. As organisations seek to build diverse inclusive cultures, it's important they empower individuals, because that's how you unleash creativity in your organisation, it's how people feel engaged and feel they belong, and it gives that connection"

Fiona Camenzuli, People and Organisation Lead at PwC UK 

Creating a more collaborative, transparent culture must be part of a bigger shift towards greater ethical conduct, with organisations holding themselves to higher standards. For example, as technology becomes increasingly pervasive in our daily lives, organisations need to embed transparent, ethical practices around the use of customer and employee data. “How you use data is really important. It's not about what you do with it, it's why you're doing it,” says Cat McCusker, Responsible Growth Lead, PwC UK.

Ultimately, talking about being purpose-driven without thinking about how business impacts our planet or failing to put in place the necessary reporting will only further erode trust in business. Organisations must recognise the value of having an authentic purpose and building trust by cooperating with a broader stakeholder group, including different industries, communities and regulators. 

This will enable us all to achieve sustained growth, as people will have the confidence to build a collective response to society’s biggest challenges.

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Kevin Ellis CBE

Kevin Ellis CBE

Alliance Senior Partner, UK & Middle East, PwC United Kingdom

Marco Amitrano ACA MCMI ChMC

Marco Amitrano ACA MCMI ChMC

Alliance Senior Partner elect - PwC UK and Middle East I Managing Partner & Head of Clients and Markets, PwC United Kingdom

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