Introducing The Concept of “Thick Trust” To A Brazilian Audience

Chris Coulter, GlobeScan’s Co-CEO, and I recently participated in the Sustainable Brands Rio 2015 conference. We opened the first morning of the conference by facilitating a workshop to discuss transparency, trust and leadership with an engaging audience of more than 40 participants from companies such as Itaú Unibanco, BG Brasil, SC Johnson, C&A, HP, and Wal-Mart, among others.
As a starting point for the debate, Chris presented the results of recent research studies conducted by GlobeScan, which revealed that the levels of trust in institutions by the public have been declining in Brazil (see chart below). The conversation then continued with insights from the audience on how to (re)build trust and what it takes for companies to become leaders in sustainability. Some of the suggestions from the audience to regain the public’s trust included being more transparent about each company’s difficulties and weaknesses, going beyond compliance, and better understanding stakeholders’ expectations. When we asked participants what was necessary for a company to be recognized as a leader, they mentioned that companies need to have ambitious goals, work in collaboration with other organizations, and to communicate better how they are contributing to society. Most of these characteristics are echoed by our panel of sustainability experts, as shown in the 2015 Sustainability Leaders Survey.

On the second day, Chris spoke to about 300 people in a plenary session entitled “How brands can engage people” and presented GlobeScan’s thinking on trust and leadership. These topics could not have been more appropriate in light of Brazil’s current economic, political and ethical crises that seem to have left Brazilians completely adrift and skeptical of the leadership abilities of our national institutions.
Based on the conversations we had with our colleagues in the hallways of the conference after these presentations, we realized that the distinction presented by Chris between “thin trust,” which is transactional and compliance-based, and “thick trust,” much more dynamic, deeper and supported by a network of stakeholders, sparked a great deal of interest.

Chris’ message that recognized leadership is achieved through scaled stakeholder engagement, strategies that demonstrate alignment with stakeholders’ expectations, and a visionary corporate purpose that clearly defines how the company contributes to society also seemed to have resonated with the audience.

As with prior Sustainable Brands conferences in Rio, this was a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas with engaged participants, and to focus on the issues of trust and leadership that are so necessary in Brazil right now.

Photos via SBRio’s Flickr 

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Silvia Thompson | Senior Consultant| Email | Twitter | Bio

About GlobeScan
Since 1987, GlobeScan has helped clients measure, understand and build valuable relationships with their stakeholders, and to work collaboratively in delivering a sustainable and equitable future. Uniquely placed at the nexus of reputation, brand and sustainability, GlobeScan partners with clients to build trust, drive engagement and inspire innovation within, around and beyond their organizations.