Trust in organizations at a four-year low

Proof's CanTrust Index reveals a sharp drop this year, with trust in large corporations and CEOs both down around 10% since 2016.

Trust in organizations and large corporations, in particular, has fallen sharply this year, part of a wider trend that suggests “cracks are appearing in Canada’s trust foundation.”

That’s according to Bruce MacLellan, CEO of Proof, which released its fourth annual CanTrust Index today.

The survey of 1,543 Canadians reveals an average drop in trust for all institutions, with the overall trust score plugging from 45% in 2018 to 39% this year. Whereas Canada’s trust score has hovered between 43% and 45% since 2016, this year Proof found that only two out of every five people believe others are trustworthy.

Media organizations and large corporations have faced part of the brunt, with their scores falling the most sharply over four years (down 14% and 9%, respectively). But other organizations face similar challenges, including small and medium-sized businesses (down 8%), not-for-profits (down 6%) and governments (down 4%).

Moreover, Canadians’ trust in CEOs and senior leaders has dropped to its lowest point since Proof began conducting the annual survey, down 10% over four years to 45%. Today’s CEOs enjoy less trust than community mayors (52%), but are generally considered more trustworthy than provincial premiers, the prime minister and the governor general.

The CanTrust Index reveals that while trust levels are falling in most places, the decline is most pronounced along political and geographic lines.

Albertans are consistently the least trusting people of any province, including when it comes to how they view their CEOs (4% lower than the general population) and not-for-profits (9% lower).

A similar conclusion is reached with respect to people who identify as leaning Conservative or NDP. Both groups exhibit an equal amount of mistrust – they only trust 34% of people, whereas that number is 40% among the general population. However, there are differences between the groups: Conservatives have 2% higher trust in their CEOs or bosses than the average person, while NDP supporters tend to trust not-for-profits more (10% more than the average).

“Philosophically, you’d expect small-c conservatives to have less trust in government and more trust in private enterprise,” said Proof SVP Greg MacEachern in a release. “Yet while Conservative-leaning respondents do have higher trust in small and medium-sized businesses, when it comes to trust in large corporations, they’re as mistrustful as the average Canadian.”

Of all groups, recent immigrants and people who lean Liberal exhibit higher levels of trust across nearly all categories, including governments, news media and not-for-profits. Liberals identify as trusting their CEOs 3% more often than Conservatives, while recent immigrants match the overall Canadian score of 45%.

The survey suggests that creating jobs and investing in communities was the biggest trust-driver among Canadians, at 73%. Leadership transparency and “standing for a cause or personal value I believe in” also ranked high (at 70% and 69%, respectively), while supporting a charitable cause in the community was the weakest trust-driver among activities listed by Proof, at 60%.

In addition to determining overall trust scores, the CanTrust Index measures trust across different sectors. A select list of trust scores (and their 2018 comparisons) can be found below. Food retailers and retail pharmacies are among the most trusted organizations, while the opposite can be said of social media platforms.

Also noteworthy, trust in social media platforms, online shopping and pharmaceutical companies and social media platforms have declined significantly (down 4%, 5%, and 7% respectively), while trust in licensed cannabis producers and wholesalers has climbed 5% over the last year.

CanTrust Index scores across sectors (with comparative 2018 scores)

Retail pharmacies: 48% (52%)

Food retailers: 48% (48%)

Online shopping: 41% (46%)

Beer, wine and spirits producers/retailers: 41% (N/A)

Banks: 41% (43%)

Tech companies: 38% (N/A)

Financial (planning and investing services): 35% (36%)

Energy, pipelines and resources: 32% (30%)

Telecommunications and cable television: 31% (30%)

Streaming services: 31% (N/A)

Auto manufacturers: 31% (35%)

Taxi and ride sharing companies: 30% (31%)

Life and health insurance: 29% (30%)

Pharmaceutical companies: 23% (30%)

Licensed cannabis producers/wholesalers: 23% (18%)

Social media platforms: 18% (22%)