During Trajectory’s latest Trends Breakfast, we shared our most recent outlook on CSR, Trust and the New Morality. Though our forecasting instincts prompted us to acknowledge that this topic is more relevant than ever against the backdrop of our current economic landscape, even we could not predict just how timely such a discussion would become. Low and behold, the fabulously alliterative Panama Papers story hit headlines mere days later.
Though offshore accounts located in convenient tax havens is no new news, the scale of exposure is ground-breaking, dwarfing past scandals tenfold. With 11.5 million files, including 4.8 million emails and 1 million images over the course of 40 years leaked, very little can be said to spin the facts any other way than how they first appear.
It’s no secret that tax and scandal have a habit of gravitating towards each other. It wasn’t so long ago that Starbucks and Google were the latest corporate giants to be scrutinised for their well-choreographed dance around the taxman, which could explain why tax avoidance was such a concern in 2015. Data from our global attitudes and values survey, Trajectory Global Foresight (TGF), show that in the wake of the VW emissions scandal, 35% of consumers mentioned their concerns for corporate tax avoidance vs. only 11% who said that the environment was a priority – so much for aspiring to a greener future.
With the Panama Papers exposing over 109 media organisations and 12 heads of state, the cheeky little devils really can be found in the detail.
Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson resigned from his position as Iceland’s Prime Minister days later and No.10 was forced to release multiple statements to bring the Camerons’ involvement into the clear (as much as possible, at least).
Though it is not the first time that prominent figures and organisations have abused the trust their positions hold – with the obvious example of double agent Kim Philby’s address to Stasi agents in 1981 being released for the first time earlier this week – the emergence of the Panama Papers is unquestionably bad timing for many names found on the sinbin list, particularly considering that our recovering economy is still in such a delicate state. Some further TGF findings reveal that in 2015, trust in multinational business leaders had increased by 17% on the previous year and trust in national business leaders had risen by 9% in the UK– something that will no doubt be subject to change.
There’s no denying that trust is a challenge to pin down. Even when looking at our own statistics, we must consider the context around the numbers and when each scandal is no doubt proceeded by another, we’re never short of factors to draw up against our data.
However, with this week’s latest furore, we find ourselves in a frustratingly familiar position.
Trust could not be more important for the business growth that is crucial to building a stronger economy. And yet, as more days go by and more names are called into question, trust is increasingly becoming more fragile in the face of global crisis’ and European disharmony. I wish it was better news – trust me.