Innovation is being poorly managed worldwide, and business is the institution which has the best chance to remedy a rift growing between society and innovation, according to a global survey conducted for the Edelman Trust Barometer 2024.

    Over the past year, trust in business has grown by four per cent in Australia to 58 per cent, according to survey findings in the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer.

    Globally, trust in business has grown to 63 per cent, with business trusted in 15 out of 28 countries. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed globally expect CEOs to manage changes occurring in society, not just those occurring in their business (62 per cent), and eight in 10 employees say it's important for their CEO to speak publicly about job skills of the future (82 per cent), the ethical use of technology (79 per cent) and automation's impact on jobs (78 per cent).

    Global survey respondents, by a two-to-one margin, say innovation is being poorly managed. The agency said in a statement this was true across developed and developing nations, age groups, income levels, educational status and gender.

    "Innovation is accelerating and should be a growth enabler, but it will be stymied if business doesn't pay as much attention to acceptance as it does research and development," said Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman.

    "More than two-thirds of our respondents who say innovation is poorly managed believe society is changing too quickly and not in ways that benefit 'people like me' (69 per cent).” The imbalance in trust between business and government and the infodemic have been forces behind the decline in trust and the rise of polarisation, he says. Fear of innovation has now become a major factor.

    As the most trusted institution, business has the greatest opportunity to shift society’s perception of innovation, according to the Edelman research. But CEO Richard Edelman says companies must consider key steps in their approach. 

    He urges businesses to be inclusive, speaking to the mass population as much as to informed elites. Companies must consider the potential impacts of innovation, such as how it will impact job training, and work to find solutions for those side effects, he says. They must also clearly outline the benefits and how progress in innovation is affecting the business and its workforce. 

    Edelman added that companies must also pace themselves relative to society’s ability to process change in innovation. According to the survey, 59 per cent of respondents see business as the institution most trusted to integrate innovations into society (compared to government 50 per cent).

    In Australia, 50 per cent of respondents said innovation is poorly managed and only 17 per cent said it is well managed. In Australia, 64 per cent of respondents also said government regulators lack understanding of emerging technologies to regulate them effectively (compared to 59 per cent globally).

    Australian respondents said they would trust business more than government with technology-led changes. Over the last 10 years of the Edelman survey, the Australian vote on this answer has surged by 19 per cent to 55 per cent in 2024. Globally, 60 per cent of respondents agreed with this statement in 2024 (up 15 per cent over 10 years.)

    Despite this, business must still partner with government on the issue. Over the last decade, the trust barometer has seen a 14-point increase in the demand for business and government to partner on technology-led innovations. To ensure effective collaboration between the two institutions, companies must be transparent in their progress, according to Edelman. 

    “Business has to make sure that government regulators are up to speed on the innovations, meaning make sure that they’re educated,” he said.

    In Australia, trust in government has risen five per cent to 50 per cent in the past year. Over the same period, trust has stayed local, with Australian trust in their own employers rising one per cent to 76 per cent.

    Globally, government leaders (42 per cent) are among the least trusted societal leaders, with CEOs (51 per cent) only slightly more trusted.

    Globally, the report also finds huge gaps between trust in businesses that make up industry sectors and industry innovations, including a 26-point gap between trust in businesses in the technology sector (76 per cent) versus trust in AI (50 per cent).

    The research, launched at Davos by the World Economic Forum, was produced by the Edelman Trust Institute and consisted of 30-minute online interviews conducted between November 3 and November 22, 2023. The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer online survey sampled more than 32,000 respondents across 28 countries. Download the Edelman Trust Barometer 2024 here.

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