Survey finds that consumers expect public-private partnership

Things are underway here in Davos at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum and an interesting theme seems to be emerging.

That theme is trust – trust in institutions – government, business, the media and NGOs.

PR firm Edelman has been measuring trust for 11 years and earlier this week I attended the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer launch. While this year’s survey finds overall trust in business and government holding steady from last year, Americans are far less trusting of business in the United States. In fact, while the 2010 survey showed an 18 point increase in trust in business, this year business fell back and now only 5 points higher than the country with the least trust in business, Russia. Contrast that slide with Brazil and Germany which saw double digit increases in the trust in business.

According to the report, “in the early years of the survey, trust in business and government tended to move in opposite directions. Increased trust in one was met by decreased trust in the other. We generally now see the two moving in tandem, an important step as the expectation is for the world’s two dominant institutions to work together.”

NGOs, which are often seen as the honest brokers of information, gained significantly this year and are now trusted as much or more than business in 16 of the 23 countries surveyed.

Since I work for the world’s largest software company, I was pleased to hear that for the third straight year, the technology industry ranked #1 as the most trusted industry. This is in stark contrast to banks which again ranks at the bottom of this year’s survey.

While I have only highlighted a few of the survey takeaways, it provides an interesting backdrop for talking a bit about our approach to corporate citizenship here at Microsoft.

Clearly, those surveyed are expecting institutions to work together to address global challenges. At Microsoft, we have extended our existing business partnership model to our Citizenship work by partnering with various stakeholders - NGOs, government and business - to tackle a range of economic and social challenges while staying focused on increasing our business value and meeting the expectations of our shareholders.

Through partnerships, based on mutual trust, respect and accountability, we have worked hard to address some of society’s most challenging issues – from education to accessibility to online privacy to humanitarian relief. A good example is our Elevate America program – a partnership with 32 states and the District of Columbia to provide IT skills training opportunities to the unemployed. We also work with educators and NGOs to help parents and children to practice safety online and have built a long term relationship with NetHope in providing technology support and infrastructure in the face of large scale humanitarian disasters. Partnership is core to our approach to meeting our responsibilities as a corporate citizen.

If there is one takeaway for me from the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer it is that sectorial boundaries will continue blur as members of civil society demand cross sector collaboration, engagement and partnership. While some may resist, this is the new reality, they will do so at their own peril.

For more information on our Citizenship work, please visit our homepage.

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