Trust in business: Delivering authentic value

Can businesses purposefully design a way to build trust without the public doubting their authenticity? Is it only the CEOs who are trust defenders?




More and more business leaders are beginning to wake up to the critical need to build trust. In fact, over half the CEOs surveyed (55%) in PwC’s 19th Annual Global CEO Survey are concerned about the lack of trust in business today – compared with 37% just three years ago.

So when we held our inaugural Building Trust Awards 2015, to recognise Malaysian public-listed companies that are building trust, we wanted to address just that.

Throughout this journey, we managed to show that trust is tangible in a business context.

For example, our Trustworthy Organisation framework measures trust by assessing employees, customers, regulators and shareholders.

But we also discovered, during the course of our conversations with business leaders, commentators, and the international panel of judges for our Awards, that we had more questions than when we started!

We decided to dive into these questions by engaging several business leaders and the public. We were also curious to see if there is a perception mismatch between the two sides. 

Trust in business: Delivering authentic value is a compilation of those stories and thoughts.

We hope that you will find that building trust can indeed be done authentically, and with - in the words of one of our survey respondents - ‘integrity of purpose and integrity of people’.

The case for building trust

In 2015, PwC Malaysia set out on a journey to encourage Malaysian companies to make trust-building a priority in business; because, clearly, trust is at a premium but also increasingly difficult to nurture and protect.

Our inaugural Building Trust Awards in November 2015 was a good starting point. We acknowledged 10 local public listed companies for their efforts in building trust with their customers and investors (in this report, we share examples and stories from some of the CEOs of these companies).

To understand trust in a business context, we read materials and research. We also spoke to business leaders, representatives from Malaysia and abroad, and engaged with members of the media and community.

These were some of the insights we gleaned:
1. Trust isn't just a nice-to-have
2. It is possible to measure and then proactively manage your trust levels


Explore key findings

Can you purposefully work on building trust and remain authentic?

This was the easy one. Unequivocally everyone feels that yes, it’s absolutely vital to be authentic while purposefully building trust. In fact, there is no concern around losing your authenticity when you design a programme around trust because trust is steeped in being real and genuine.

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Is transparency really in the best interests of a company?

Yes, it is a key ingredient for any successful business of today, and for the business of tomorrow. In fact, leaders should be prepared for the day when they will have to be completely transparent regarding their own personal assets. Beware, however, that more information doesn’t equal greater transparency. You need to be legible and tailor your information according to your stakeholders.

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Is the CEO the face of trust for a business?

The superficial answer is yes. But the business leaders and focus group qualified this to say that trust is equally dependent on the entire organisation. This is the challenge then for businesses – to ensure that the right values are carried through to the rest of their organisation.

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Is it easier for 'big' businesses to build trust as compared to small businesses?

The business leaders we spoke to who come from both large and small to medium-sized organisations felt that the larger your business, the more complicated it is to achieve that consistent culture, in order to build trust. The people were almost split equally but in the end more than half say it is indeed easier for big businesses to build trust. Perhaps at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what size you are but rather the fundamentals you have in place, i.e. a belief that trust is an asset, and ability to identify whose trust is most important to you and your purpose as a business.

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Can there be a one-size-fits-all model for building trust?

The quick answer is no. But business leaders felt there is a set of basic principles – integrity, walking the talk, ethics and a code of conduct – which are consistent across any organisation. Those are your building blocks to create trust.

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Our recommendations

See our recommendations in response to the answers given by business leaders and the public about trust in business ... 

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How do Malaysian business leaders feel about trust in business? Is authentic trust-building an essential part of their business strategy?

Watch this short video to hear their views on the issue.



"Flexibility is part and parcel of trust-building. But what should never change is an organisation’s commitment to saying what you mean and doing what you say - at all times."

Sarena Cheah, Sunway Berhad

"Trust is like blood pressure. It’s silent, vital to good health, and if abused, it can be deadly."

Frank Sonnenberg, American author

Contact us

Pauline Ho

Pauline Ho

Building Trust Programme Sponsor & Assurance Partner, PwC Malaysia

Tel: +60 (3) 2173 0946

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