As governments respond to the financial crisis and its reverberations in the real economy, a company’s reputation has begun to matter more now than it has in decades. Companies and industries with reputation problems are more likely to incur the wrath of legislators, regulators, and the public. What’s more, the credibility of the private sector will influence its ability to weigh in on contentious issues, such as protectionism, that have serious implications for the global economy’s future.
Senior executives are acutely aware of how serious today’s reputational challenge is. Most recognize the perception that some companies in certain sectors (particularly financial services) have violated their social contract with consumers, shareholders, regulators, and taxpayers. They also know that this perception seems to have spilled over to business more broadly. In a March 2009 McKinsey Quarterly survey of senior executives around the world, 85 and 72 percent of them, respectively, said that public trust in business and commitment to free markets had deteriorated.1 According to the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, those executives are reading the public mind correctly: 62 percent of respondents, across 20 countries, say that they “trust corporations less now than they did a year ago.”