As 2021 comes to a close, we end another of the strangest years in our lifetime. The global pandemic has impacted all of us, and each of us has had to adapt, learn and innovative as we move our families, businesses, and community forward. For some, 2021 has been devastating as individuals grapple with the loss of family members due to covid or struggled with their business, due to labor shortages or supply chain issues. Others have had very positive experiences that have included growth and success for their businesses and new opportunities that have appeared due to the changes in the world economy. While 2021 has created new challenges for all of us, we have also seen compassion and empathy as communities came together to support one another as well as innovation, persistence, and grit from our business community.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau (BBB) has helped consumers find businesses, brands, and charities they can Trust. However, the global pandemic has put trust to test. The coronavirus crisis has spawned more scams than any other event in the last decade. According to the FBI, Americans are estimated to be losing around $4.5 billion to scams, a 1 billion dollar increase from 2019, and there does not seem to be an end in sight! According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the pandemic has accelerated the erosion of trust around the world. This is evident in the significant drop in trust in the two largest economies: the U.S. and China. The U.S. (40 percent) and Chinese (30 percent) governments are deeply distrusted by respondents. While the world seems to be clouded by mistrust and misinformation, there is a glimmer of hope in business. This year’s Edelman study shows that business is not only the most trusted institution among the four institutions studied (Government, NGO’s, Media, and Business), but it is also the only trusted institution with a 61 percent trust level globally, and the only institution seen as both ethical and competent.
This means that consumers are turning to business leaders more and more for information and guidance on how to respond to the quickly changing environment around us. We are also seeing new areas of focus that business must address; for example, the top trust-building action for business is now guarding information quality, ensuring that reliable trustworthy information goes out to their employees, and, by extension, the community. This means that trust remains the most important currency in lasting relationships in our economy and inside our communities. Particularly in times of turbulence and volatility, trust is what holds society together and where growth rebuilds and rebounds.
Our role at BBB is to encourage and support best practices, educating consumers and businesses, celebrating business role models, and calling out and addressing substandard marketplace behavior. As we move into the new year it is important for our business community to embrace its expanded mandate and expectations, with CEOs leading on a range of familiar and unfamiliar issues and must lead with these values in mind.
- Provide trustworthy content that is truthful, unbiased, and reliable.
- Lead with facts and act with empathy. Leaders must have the courage to lead with transparency, but also empathize with and address people’s fears.
- Institutions must partner with one another to solve issues. We are Better Together and must continue to find a common purpose and take collective action to solve societal problems.
The fact is that Americans want – expect – companies to do more, for them, for their communities, for the country. Fortunately, in our Colorado Springs’ community, we have seen our businesses, leaders and various institutions step up and get the job done.
As we determine how each of us will lead in the new year, I am very excited to tell you that your BBB has spearheaded an international program that will launch in 2022 called BBB4Good. BBB4Good is BBB’s new program for purpose-driven businesses. The program will enable consumers to decipher between legitimate purpose-driven businesses and those that may be engaged in green-washing and/or purpose-washing. BBB4Good empowers a business to become a “BBB4Good Purpose-Driven Business” and display a “BBB4Good Trustmark,” which will be the newest Trustmark for BBB in over 25 years by providing customers with confidence, they are supporting businesses that are committed to a higher purpose. We have been conducting a pilot program throughout North America for the past year and we are very excited to launch this new program. As a matter of fact, the first BBB4Good businesses to ever receive this new verification is Blue Star recyclers here in Colorado Springs!
We need to unleash the power of purpose-driven organizations to build a better economy. By strengthening the supportive ecosystem for this 4th sector, we can rise to the challenge that the COVID-19 crisis has created to build a more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable world. This is a transformative journey, transitioning from what has been a Shareholder supremacy paradigm to one that is inclusive of all Stakeholders and is intentional and strategic in serving communities while creating jobs. This journey requires new ideas, new voices, and massive collaboration at every level. In the coming months we will have to continue to work together and be more strategic than ever before. As we seize this opportunity in 2022, I believe it will be a year of rebuilding, innovation, and hope.
In Colorado Springs, our business community remains resilient, innovative, persistent, and passionate about the work that we do and our city.
Jonathan A. Liebert
CEO, BBB of Southern Colorado
CEO and CO-Founder of the National Institute for Social Impact