Ex Edelman chief Robert Phillips: Trust can't be restored by taking one action

MT'S REPUTATION WEEK IN ASSOCIATION WITH BSI: Robert Phillips, trust author and ex-President, Edelman EMEA, says trust has to be hard fought and hard won.

Last Updated: 15 Oct 2013


The reputation of business has been at a low ebb since the financial crisis took hold five years ago. Britain’s banks have borne the brunt of the criticism – but no industry has been left unscathed.

From retailers and manufacturers to airlines and utility companies, all industries have been hit by scandals – whether it’s horse meat, rising energy prices, and unfair costs at a time when consumers are feeling the pinch.

Robert Phillips, visiting professor at Cass Business School and ex-president and CEO of Edelman EMEA, says trust at its pre-crash level has been lost forever.

‘We live in an over-romanticised world if we think a silver bullet can somehow restore trust as it used to be,’ he said during a roundtable discussion on rebuilding trust, recently hosted by MT and BSI. ‘Part of the problem is that business leaders stand up and give speeches about trust without properly understanding the dynamics of it themselves.’

Many companies think trust is something that can be magically won, Phillips added. ‘Trust can’t be restored by simple taking one step or one action. Trust has to be hard fought, hard won, hard earned, continually, every day.’

Companies also need to look beyond the profit motive, he said. ‘It takes a combination of profit and purpose and engagement to help restore trust in business.’

‘Businesses need to be listening to customers asking, what are you doing about climate change and energy consumption? Businesses have to turn their attention to the big issues of the day if it is to properly rebuild trust in the long term,’ he added. 

This video is the fifth part of a Reputation Week special.

Find out more about MT’s Reputation Week in association with BSI.

Read the full discussion with panellists including Andy Street, MD of John Lewis, Giles Andrews, founder and CEO of Zopa, and Baroness Kingsmill.

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