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Big human trust trends that are important for your small business

Here are some of the big human insights from the Edelman Trust Barometer that I have been looking at this year through the lens of purpose & our beautiful ikigai flower. It's almost time for the 2023 edition, but the insights are still incredibly powerful as we head into the last act of 2023.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been monitoring trust & credibility for the last 22 years across 28 countries and while a lot of the data might not be relevant for you or your business some of it is extremely important to take note of, even if you are a solopreneur, and especially if you are trying to be a force for good in the world.

Distrust is now society's default emotion - lonely person walking up steps
Distrust is now society's default emotion

We find ourselves in a pretty sad state where nearly 6 out of 10 people say their default tendency is to distrust something until they see evidence it is trustworthy. Another 64% say it’s now to a point where people are incapable of having constructive and civil debates about issues they disagree on.

What does this mean for you or your business?

  • Trust is the foundation of creativity & collaboration (and high performing teams) and if you are looking at driving innovation then creating a safe space for your teams to share ideas should be on top of your agenda. Not talking about a great venue - we're talking about psychological safety, a space where I can express myself without fear of being put down. If you haven't yet - create time to reflect honestly & openly about your culture.

  • Take a good look at your communication. If we are operating in a general space of distrust then every message you put out about you or your business should be supported by "reasons to believe" - this is why we do what we do & this is why you should believe us. Support everything with the facts.

People protesting holding a sign that says I can't believe we are marching for the facts
News sources fail to fix their trust problem

On top of that - media has failed to break the cycle of distrust & it is fuelling scepticism & cynicism, even for positive messaging.

What does this mean for you or your business?

  • Be aware of how your audiences might be engaging with your brand. What platforms are you using - how do they feel about those channels. If you are placing digital ads what content are you sitting next to in those environments - do you even know?

Polar ice caps melting - 75% people worry about climate change
Societal fears on the rise

One of the side effects of misinformation in a hyper-connected world is that we are constantly living with uncertainty, anxiety & fear. In January 2020," the year the earth changed" as David Attenborough refers to it, human beings were already anxious. People were afraid they were going to lose their jobs due to a number of reasons including the gig economy, a looming recession, lack of skills training. For two years we have heard a lot about returning to normal but the "normal we had was precisely the problem".

Fast forward to this year & we are still anxious about a lot of things:

  • 86% worry about losing their jobs

  • 75% worry about climate change (closely related to the rise in Eco Grief)

  • 71% worry about hackers and cyber-attacks

  • 65% worry about losing their freedom as a citizen

  • 57% worry about experiencing prejudice or racism

What does this mean for you or your business?

  • The world is pretty divided at the moment on the one hand - there are are many human beings who are still struggling with grief, anxiety and fear and on the other there is a large group of people who are just looking for joy, living in the moment, taking life as it comes. Be aware that you are dealing with many different human beings who have very real feelings on a huge spectrum from fear to joy. Human beings are tired. Approach with empathy.

Tall city buildings seen from below Business most trusted  institute
Business is once again the most trusted institute

Business is once again the most trusted institute after handing over to government for a short time. Human beings are looking to businesses to step in & do the right thing and are placing an incredible amount of pressure on CEOs - 81% say CEO's should be personally visible when discussing public policy with external stakeholders or work their company has done to benefit society

My employer is now the most trusted institution at 77% and employer media most trusted by employees.

What does this mean for you or your business?

  • Human beings are looking at businesses to hold an authentic space & to move in a direction where they create a positive impact in the world. People want to buy and advocate from businesses & brands who believe what they believe. What do you stand for as a business?

  • The relationship between employer & employee is incredibly important & if you are engaging in or sending out communication to your staff remember that you are holding their trust in your hands. Is your messaging authentic, line with your purpose & values, transparent, supported by data and lived within your organisation?

group of happy Gen Z gathered around device - all will change buying behaviour because of brands behaviour
Gen Z has come of age amidst a crescendo of brand activism

Gen Z has arrived & they are generation of hope & action.

Human trust trends are incredibly evident amongst Gen Z - not only are they changing their buying behaviour based on how brands have responded to covid, racial justice, employee, treatment, climate change & economic inequality but they are influencing upwards - helping older generations to take action on purpose. They are not immune to Eco Grief & fears for their future but are using it to create change.

In 2017 the Edelman Barometer found that brands were expected to take a stand on behalf of consumers (50 percent). Today, the brand must take a stand on issues that affect its employees (60 percent), its customers (59 percent) and how the products are made (55 percent).

What does this mean for you or your business?

  • Not sure if this needs to be said, but shine the light on yourself & look at how you are responding to the issues that are flagged above. There seems to be confusion around purpose & brand positioning - we do not all need to take up a certain cause (which might be seen as purpose washing), but we most certainly all need to be good citizens and look at where & how we can apply our energies to create positive change for our employees, our suppliers, our communities and the planet we live on.

There are incredible human insights available to us which can always be applied to our small businesses & help us to create a positive impact even in a small way in the community around us.

After all a business is just a collection of human beings - with a shared purpose.


Yes - the Edelman trust Barometer is an online survey of > 30, 000 human beings so it is not representative of everyone, but as with all research it is indicative of a story. It is the story we are interested in.

Yes - this is a curated article and I am a human being.


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