Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Davos 2010: Business struggles to regain public trust

By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, in Davos

Davos preparations
The survey was released ahead of the start of the World Economic forum in Davos

Business leaders are struggling to regain the trust of the public following the global economic crisis.

Nearly 70% of people believe that companies will will try to return to business as normal after the recession.

According to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer, banks are particularly disliked, while chief executives are also eyed with great suspicion.

However, in a few countries trust in business is on the rise, among them the United States, Netherlands and Italy.

According to the researchers at Edelman, sharp gains in these countries are behind the overall slight increase in trust in business. In Italy, for example, trust in business soared 26 percentage points, while in the United States it rose 18.

Delegates at World economic forum in Davos

"Trust in business has improved, but the patient has a long road to go for a full recovery," said Richard Edelman, the chief executive at the PR firm.

"The increase in trust in business belies its fragility. There is concern that short-term actions have been taken only as a result of the crisis and that government will need to remain a watchdog. Companies will have to prove the sceptics wrong and show they can achieve both profit and purpose."

The survey was launched to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The meeting for top business leaders and politicians features a series of sessions on consumer confidence and rebuilding public trust in companies and financial institutions.

Bankers in the dock

According to the survey, banks are especially struggling to regain credibility, which is unsurprising, given the fact that the crisis started with a credit crunch in the financial sector.

In the trust rankings they are third from the bottom. Since 2007, in the United States trust in banks plummeted 39 percentage points - from 68 to 29, while in the UK it fell from 41 to 21.

Around the world there are just two industries that have an even worse standing: the media and insurance companies.

Bankers can take heart from two exceptions: In China they are held in the highest esteem as the most trusted institutions, while in India they come in second place, behind technology companies.

Chief executives are also struggling to regain trust. They may have gained up to 13 percentage points in countries like the United States and the UK - but from a very low level. In the US, just a quarter of the public trust chief executives; in the UK it is a third.

And the winner is...

Trust in government is fairly stable, or on the rise - especially in the United States.

Two sectors, however, stand out as clear winners. The obvious one is non-governmental organisations and campaign groups. Amongst industry, the technology sector is the most trusted, with approval ratings of 79% - up 3 points on a year ago.

The Edelman Trust Barometer was compiled during the last three months of 2009, based on interviews with 4,875 "informed" (a least college-educated and high-earning) respondents in 22 countries.

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