Trust in four key institutions – business, government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and media – is at a significant low, according to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer. The global survey, involving 28 countries, shows a vast trust gap between the informed public and the mass population. The informed public, which includes university-educated individuals earning in the top quartile and who consume significant media, show a higher level of trust in these institutions than the mass population.

This trust gap is widest in the U.S, followed by the U.K. and France. Interestingly, the trust inequality in developing nations is less severe. The survey also reveals a lack of faith in leadership, with CEOs and government officials being the least trusted to correct issues. Employees are seen as the most credible sources of information about a company.

The survey suggests that businesses can regain trust by adopting a people-first approach, prioritising employees, customers and society over shareholders. Transparent and honest practices, along with societal contributions, are key to restoring trust. The media, too, can rebuild trust by providing balanced reporting and avoiding sensationalism.

The findings underscore the need for a new approach to leadership – one that prioritises integrity, transparency, and engagement with the public.

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