SMEs and family businesses come out on top in trust stakes

Australia’s small and family-run businesses are highly trusted, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.

The research, released today, found no fewer than 67% of respondents said they trusted small business to “do the right thing”. When it came to family-owned businesses, trust was even higher, with 76% saying the same thing.

The survey assessed attitudes towards many different types of businesses, and SMEs and family-owned businesses were the most trusted segments.

Big business was least trusted, with just 42% saying they trusted it to do the right thing, followed by state-owned enterprises, which had the trust of 49% of respondents.

It’s the sixth time the annual survey has run in Australia, and the trust in SMEs and family business has been a consistent feature, Edelman Australia chief executive Michelle Hutton tells SmartCompany

The survey didn’t gauge the reasons for the high levels of trust in SMEs, but Hutton says she assumes the high results are due to the rise of locally focused consumers.

“We’ve seen over the years a real shift over the years towards Australians supporting local businesses. Even seen large organisations and retailers trying to have a local flavour in everything they do,” she says.

High trust in small business is replicated throughout the world – the survey takes place in 27 countries – but not all of Australia’s results were typical.

This year, every single one of the major groups whose trustworthiness were assessed, including government, business, the media and the NGO sector, saw their trustworthiness increase.

“Australia is somewhat bucking the global trend,” Hutton says. “We saw a rebound in trust across all the different institutions we measure.”

The survey timing coincided with the previous federal election, which Hutton says may have had an impact on the results.

But it’s not all good news. The results point to a significant ‘trust deficit’ between institutions and the individuals who lead them.

“If you look at government and business as well, Australians are saying they trust them to do the right thing. But when we ask, ‘do you trust the leaders of government and the leaders of business to do the right thing. Surprisingly, the answer there is ‘not so much’.

“That tells us that leaders – whether they be politicians or CEOs – need to be doing a better job at communicating.”

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