The Trust Index: Exploring the Critical and Notorious Question of Trust

A sustainable business requires consumer acceptance of your products, support across the value chain, and a strong business model pulling—and keeping—it all together. Sounds great. But how do you know if your company has these?

A strong business model is easy to track. From accounting to finance, there is no shortage of standardized metrics to track strength and overall performance. However, despite their equally critical role, the same cannot be said for consumer acceptance and support across the value chain.

We began to unpack this challenge by focusing on the common, critical underpinning for both: trust. Trust influences every aspect and stage, from customer and supplier interest to cultivating brand ambassadors to satisfying majority stockholders. Yet, despite our ability to recognize its importance and presence, trust is not measured. And, as is well established, without measurement, monitoring and performance adjustments are next to impossible.

We developed the Trust Index to address this challenge. The Trust Index merges the science of established financial monitoring approaches with the accessibility of sentiment as reported in media and other public outlets. We begin by tracking positive and negative sentiment for a given company, industry, or project. Context-specific indicators are layered in, ranging from broad-sweeping industry challenges, such as deforestation, labor, or supply issues, to those that are specific to a geographic location or operation, such as water usage and circular economies.

Given the pervasive influence of trust on company success, this data-driven approach can inform key operational and sustainability investment calculations, risk reduction, and impact quantification and reporting. Results reflect an understanding of public and stakeholder perception as well as providing intelligence to inform effective and proactive strategies to engage and respond.

Companies with difficult stakeholder relationships or known controversial issues may be particularly interested in the Index’s calculation of trust volatility, which is a time-bound monitoring of positive, negative and neutral sentiment that can help identify issues before they escalate.

We are excited to present and discuss the Trust Index at the 2017 Sustainable Brands New Metrics Conference. By actively monitoring public and stakeholder sentiment, and by positioning companies to proactively address challenges, it provides a metrics-based approach to incorporating trust into the business case for sustainability and to measuring its return on investment (ROI).

C-suite executives, financial asset managers, and shareholders can face challenges in understanding which corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability issues are financially material to a company and how best to address them. As a data-driven metric, the Trust Index not only provides objective analysis of stakeholder sentiment, but also creates the necessary data to incorporate trust into relevant business decisions.

Join me at New Metrics ’17 in Philadelphia this Nov to make new connections and learn new tools that will help you identify and measure new forms of value that will help you drive your business forward.

Kellem Emanuele
Attego ESG Impact Solutions
October 5, 2017

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