The Trust Factor: Getting Things Done on Energy


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We’re hearing from stakeholders that now, more than ever, energy leaders in the U.S. need to build — and in some cases, rebuild — trust in the industry. As our country becomes a major player in global energy markets, it is time for us to talk about trust — and to recognize the need not just for talk, but for concrete actions.

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  • We’re hearing from stakeholders that now is the time to have a conversation about trust: people are embracing the United States as a major energy player—now what are we going to do about it?
  • This was Edelman’s largest evaluation of trust since the original Trust Barometer in 2001.
  • In 2001, the influence of NGOs was rising and it has had staying power. Fast forward to 2013, and we are seeing a crisis of leadership. Both are critical points for the energy industry and government.
  • Trust in institutions is increasing in the United States. The typical trust threshold is 50%--1 in 2 people trusting you is acceptable;anything less than that is cause for alarm. But energy and government are still dangerously low.
  • The energy industry ranks low among other industries, but it increased slightly this year. Note that the technology industry not only ranked #1 in all markets surveyed this year, it has been the most trusted industry over more than a decade of Trust Barometer research.
  • For the first time, the Trust Barometer expanded beyond the overall energy industry to include a measure of trust in four energy subsectors: renewables, natural gas, utilities and oil.
  • By analyzing research from McKinsey, Harvard Business School and others, we identified 16 attributes that are critical to trust. Since that’s a lot to remember, we grouped them into 5 performance clusters, ranked in order of importance.
  • There has been a fundamental reordering of the drivers of Trust in business. Operations is now seen as table stakes;Engagement and Integrity are what matter most in building, or rebuilding, Trust. Engagement should focus less on “what” and more on “how.”
  • The rank order of trust-building attributes for energy tracks with the global ranking. Everything is more important than Operations (e.g., business performance.), including Purpose, which is often highlighted in the energy industry. And all serve as actionable insights for the industry.
  • Returning to the key takeaway from this year’s Trust Barometer, both the government and business have incredibly low ratings on leadership criteria. People do not trust them to solve issues, make ethical or moral decisions, or tell the truth. This is a crisis. And both entities need to embrace the new dynamic in which they operate to improve their ability to get things done on energy and all issues.
  • We are in the midst of a transformation. Old models no longer work in isolation and new models are firmly established. The Diamond of Influence has profound implications for how the energy industry and government communicate and engage with stakeholders and the general public. Forward-thinking businesses and institutions are integrating traditional, vertical (one-way) communications with modern, horizontal (multi-directional), always-on conversations. In this new dynamic, and with the opportunity and obligation to rebuild trust, Edelman works with clients to move beyond the familiar goal of “license to operate” and strive instead for a “license to lead.”
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