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Dear Corporate Canada, We’ve Got Trust Issues

Josh Cobden

Dear Corporate Canada,

We don’t want to put you on the spot, but we’ve got trust issues with you. And when I say “we,” I mean us Canadians. You know, the people that spend our hard-earned money to buy your stuff? And we’re not talking about occasional second thoughts about your motives. No, this is bad. How bad? According to the 2017 CanTrust Index, just one in four of us (27%) trust large corporations to do what is right for Canada, Canadians, and our society. That’s less than everyone’s favourite whipping boy, the government, trusted by four in ten (39%). And it’s way, way below the news media, trusted by 51% of us (so much for fake news).

Now, it’s not all bad. New Canadians are decidedly more trusting of Big Business. According to the CanTrust Index, 47% of those of us that have been in Canada for 15 years or less trust large corporations – that’s 20 points above the national average. In fact, New Canadians, in general, are also more trusting of the news media, and a whopping 25% are more trusting of government. Maybe it takes an outsider to tell us how good we’ve got it.

You’ll never guess who’s also willing to give you a bit of a break, Corporate Canada. Quebecers. In fact, 41% of those of us in La Belle Province trust you to do what’s right for the country, 14 points above the national average. So, the next time you gripe about translating your website, packaging and impossible instruction booklets into “that other official language” (or limiting your signage in Québec to Français), remember who your friends are.

Sadly, beyond those of us who speak French – or many other languages that aren’t English – our trust in you is low (Gen X, Gen Y, Boomers, Males, Females, Westerners) or lower (Ontario, Atlantic Canada).

But there’s hope. And it’s the person sitting in your corner office, Corporate Canada. That’s right; when the CanTrust Index people asked us to rank our trust in various leaders in our lives, guess who comes up first? Nope, not the guy with the great hair who lives in Ottawa. Not our mayor. Definitely not our provincial premier. It’s the CEO or most senior boss at the place we work, trusted by over half of us (51%). That number climbs to 54% among women, and 57% among our youngest colleagues (18-24). And, once again, New Canadians are the most trusting, 10 points above the national average at 61%.

It’s hard to pinpoint a single reason why so many of us don’t trust you, Corporate Canada. Maybe it’s because we still trust the media, where your skeletons are so often wrenched from the closet. Or you’ve locked us into one too many pricey mobile phone contracts (telcos are trusted by only 29% of Canadians). Or we dislike your environmental practices (the energy, pipeline and resource industry is trusted by just 26%). Or you act for both sides of the deal when we sell our houses (real estate agents = 21% trust). Or maybe you’re selling the stuff that we’ve always been told is a no-no (marijuana’s 13% trust scores mean their marriage to Canadians will have no honeymoon, says my colleague Bruce MacLellan).

But you can fix this, Corporate Canada. It’s not a lost cause, and it’s certainly not a mystery. In fact, the CanTrust Index has gone ahead and ranked the leading drivers of trust in organizations among us Canadians, just for you! They are, in order:

  1. Creates jobs and invests in Canada (74%, up from 69% last year)
  2. Leadership openly communicates and is accessible (71%, up from 67% in 2016)
  3. Canadian owned (71%, way up from 64% last year)
  4. Provides enjoyable products and services (70%, flat vs. 2016 when it was 68%)
  5. Supports charitable causes in their community (63%, up from 56% in 2016)

Now, if that’s not enough of a trust tutorial, we’ll make it even easier with these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Think twice before moving that factory to China or laying off the night shift to boost your next quarterly results. Job creation and local investment drive the most trust.
  2. We know your leaders are busy with spreadsheets and mergers and all that other big company stuff, but please remind them to get out of the corner office and into the community occasionally, participate in media interviews – and heck – maybe even write a blog. And for goodness’ sake, tell them to never fudge the facts.
  3. If you’re Canadian owned, shout it from the rafters. We still expect your widgets to work, but we’re more inclined to trust you if your roots support a maple tree. Just ask Bombardier, who topped our list of most trusted brands.
  4. If you’re not Canadian owned, you can still act like a local and earn our trust by giving back to the communities where you operate.
  5. Pay attention to the New Canadians among us. Not only are we the sole source of population growth, but we’re more inclined to trust you…for now.

It’s not us, Corporate Canada, it’s you. We’re a welcoming, supportive and optimistic bunch, us Canadians. And while our trust in you could definitely be improved, the CanTrust Index suggests that we are not developing the populist cynicism rising in other Western nations.

So take a pause from your balance sheets, and think about the factors that move our trust meter. If you get that right, we’re pretty sure the numbers will fall into place.

Yours in trust,


P.S.: If this letter has inspired you to check out the full CanTrust Index report, you can download it here.