The JUST Report: Trust Issues Dominate At Davos

(The World Economic Forum via Flickr )

“Rebuilding Trust” is the official theme of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. Trust in what? you might ask. Trust in business and capitalism? Trust in the WEF itself? In fact, we’re talking about trust in the broadest sense – trust in “the future, within societies and among nations” – and the basics on which it is built, including “transparency, consistency and accountability.” 

Judging from the notable moments so far – Jamie Dimon on Trump, Javier Milei on socialism, Marc Benioff on AI, the WTO’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on Red Sea trade disruptions – it seems to me that trust, like beauty, is very much in the eye of the beholder. 

The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, released this week, sheds light on specific trends in trust overall. Researchers note a gradual decline of trust in authority over the past decade, particularly in developed democracies, with governments viewed as being far less competent and ethical than business. There’s also a dearth of trust in leaders overall, with over 60% believing government, business and journalist leaders are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or grossly exaggerated.  

The good news for business is that it is still the most trusted institution, and CEOs are still the most trusted leadership group. Interestingly, business is also the most trusted institution to introduce new innovations into society in safe, beneficial and accessible ways (presumably AI is included in this). Consistent with JUST’s own research, safeguarding jobs and taking a stand on emerging ethical concerns were identified as being the standout issues.

In less than one month, we’ll be unveiling our 2024 JUST 100 and spotlighting which U.S. corporations are doing the best job on these and other critical societal issues. Please get in touch if you’re interested in engaging more deeply with our work! 

Be well, 


Quote of the Week 

“Artificial intelligence will be more ‘transformational than the mobile phone.’ It will be everywhere and we have to adapt to it and we have to be trained how to use it … It’s not something that we should be afraid of, even if there will be a few years where the adaptation of AI may create some job destruction, but all in all AI will be a good thing for humanity.” 

  • Maurice Lévy, chairman of Publicis Groupe in a CNBC interview at the World Economic Forum 2024 at Davos.  


One of the major themes coming out of Davos this week is how generative AI will impact corporations around the world. CEOs are already feeling the pressure – this week AP News highlights a new survey by PwC which reveals that 45% of CEOs don’t believe their companies will be around in 10 years without a major overhaul due to the rapid growth of AI. 

Bill Gates remains an optimist on AI’s effects on jobs and the economy. In his latest interview with CNN, he states, “As we had [with] agricultural productivity in 1900, people were like ‘Hey, what are people going to do?’ In fact, a lot of new things, a lot of new job categories were created and we’re way better off than when everybody was doing farm work.” Google’s SVP of Research, Technology, and and Society feels the same, but says, “people understand that AI will disrupt their lives–but they hope it’s for the better. We must not let them down.”

Must Reads

This week, The Financial Times reports that PwC has dropped some of its diversity targets and ended race-based eligibility criteria for a student internship program and several scholarships, and the New York Times reports that many corporations are rebranding their DEI efforts in anticipation of more pushback. Roy Swan, leader of the Ford Foundation’s Mission Investments team, takes to Fortune on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to decry the “bad-faith reverse discrimination claims” currently being aimed at universities and corporations.

Face-time matters – and we’re not talking about zoom calls. Fortune highlights a study that despite there being no meaningful difference in work output, workers that show up in-person at a company are being promoted at a far higher rate than their hybrid counterparts. 

NBC News reports on the death of Lincoln University’s VP of Student Affairs Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey, who died by suicide weeks after family members say she told them her relationship with the university’s president had deteriorated. Candia-Bailey’s death is sparking much conversation on LinkedIn on race and gender, workplace culture, and respect in the professional world. 

Fortune’s Executive Editor Peter Vanham writes about how climate talks and global health issues took a backseat at Davos, while concerns over war and geopolitical risk and AI dominated conversations. CNBC’s recap expressed similar themes. 

A new study published on Harvard Law School’s website shows that just over 75% of S&P 500 companies now embed some type of ESG metric into their leadership compensation policies, per 2023 data, compared to about 66% in 2021. 

In MIT Sloan’s Management Review, Lynda Gratton, a professor of management practice at London Business School, revisited predictions she made about work and business 15 years ago. She discusses her thoughts on worker sentiment, leadership traits, and more here

Chart of the Week 

This chart comes from the recently released 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, highlighting the fact that for the majority of people, business remains the only trusted institution after years of eroding faith in others. Read the full report for more info on what Edelman calls the overall “decline of authority.” 

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