The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer has highlighted that citizens look up to CEOs to take the lead in driving societal movements to restore economic confidence. This is critical to address the nation’s economic anxieties and to prevent further societal fragmentation.
In contrast to media and government, businesses and NGOs are increasingly perceived as competent and ethical, with a 14-point increase in ethics since 2020.
While Malaysia is ranked 8th among nations with high trust towards My Employer (80 points), citizens believe that more needs to be done to address pressing societal issues, including climate change, economic inequality, healthcare access, energy shortages, and trustworthy information.
In the eyes of the citizens, businesses must take a more active role in addressing societal issues and use their brand influence to foster a sense of unity and shared identity among Malaysians.
Notably, a large percentage of Malaysians, namely 63%, base their purchasing decisions and endorse brands that align with their personal values, while 69% consider a company’s societal impact before accepting a job offer. This presents a unique opportunity for businesses to align themselves with the public’s beliefs and promote progress through societal movements.
Moreover, Malaysians are of the opinion that institutions are not doing enough to address societal issues, and they demand that businesses engage more actively on critical matters such as climate change (45%), energy shortages (43%), economic inequality (47%), healthcare access (38%), and trustworthy information (38%). The 2023 Trust Barometer also shows that there has been a significant increase of over 30 points in all five issues over the 2022 data.
As a result, 74% Malaysians agree that brands can play a pivotal role in strengthening the social fabric by celebrating what brings the nation together and emphasising citizens’ everyday interests. This highlights the importance of businesses using their brands’ power to create a sense of togetherness through a shared identity within the nation.
Envisioning a positive outcome, Malaysians are optimistic of the potential for collaboration between the government and businesses, believing that such collaborations are 3x more likely to achieve optimal societal results.
With businesses being one of the more trusted institutions, 61% of Malaysians agree that it is possible for a business to address societal issues without being seen as politicised.
To further improve economic optimism, 90% of Malaysians expect CEOs to take a public stand on various issues such as employees’ treatment, discrimination, the wealth gap, climate change, and immigration.
Additionally, CEOs are expected to pay fair wages (87%), ensure their home communities are safe and thriving (86%), pay fair corporate taxes (86%), and retrain employees (78%).
As evidenced by a 66% vote in favour of politicians and media promoting consensus and cooperation, there is a call to action for all institutions to demonstrate tangible progress of rebuilding the nation’s trust, starting with addressing the mass-class divide and combating the cycle of polarisation.
Christopher de Cruz, Chief Operating Officer of Edelman Malaysia and Head of Crisis for Southeast Asia said, “While the score has dipped in the past year, trust in government is still in the neutral zone. To build greater trust, businesses and the government should identify their roles and work collaboratively to increase the nation’s confidence in the government. To create a brighter vision for the future, the government and businesses must work together to take measures to improve economic optimism and foster greater trust within the nation. Proactive efforts are needed to prevent further polarisation and increase societal movement towards a more united Malaysia. We need to remember that for all institutions, lasting trust is the strongest insurance against competitive disruption, the antidote to consumer indifference, and the best path to continued growth. Without trust, credibility is lost, and reputation can be threatened.”
The 2023 Edelman Malaysia Trust Barometer was launched through a closed panel discussion speaking on how core institutions can impact the drivers of trust within a Malaysian context. The panel was seated by Khairy Jamaluddin, former Minister of Health, Rafiza Ghazali, Director, Digital Banking of KAF Investment, Niloy Banerjee, Resident Representative of UNDP Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and Sharala Axryd Founder of Center of Applied Science, and moderated by broadcast journalist Tehmina Kaoosji.