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The Changing Role of Business in Society

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Special Series

Partners in Business Ethics Symposium Insights Part 1: The Changing Role of Business in Society

How do we value and measure trust? Boston University Questrom School of Business recently hosted the 2022 Partners in Business Ethics Symposium, a series of keynote speakers and panel discussions convened by deans of business schools, business ethics experts, and corporate leaders and designed to foster dialogue and share a commitment to promoting integrity and ethics in the corporate world. During the symposium, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Thought Leadership Research at Edelman Data and Intelligence, David Bersoff, was joined by Managing Director of The Harris Poll, Rob Jefielek to discuss ‘The Changing Role of Business in Society.’ David and Rob discussed the importance of trust within businesses and externally with stakeholders, highlighting the value of trust in partnerships.

As the panelists explained, employers play a vital role in trust because they have more resources. Because of this, trust in employers leads to trust in institutions. Employers select employees who share their values, which can attract or repel investors and stakeholders. The impact COVID had on corporations was also highlighted by David, who explained that even virtually interacting with people who have a similar goal increases closeness.

As Rob pointed out, companies’ reputations have long been impacted by changes in generational values. The results of a survey of America’s most visible brands show that these brands embody David’s various ideologies. Those companies that suffer from low consumer trust and poor reception are slower or inconsistent in responding to political crises, according to the study. According to the survey, nearly one-third of Americans believe companies should put their employees’ and customers’ views first when addressing political issues. The conflicting beliefs of employees, customers, and company leadership thus creates a difficult set of considerations for corporations to take into account in trying to come across as trustworthy and responsive to popular values.

This is part of a special series offering insights from the 2022 Partners in Business Ethics Symposium held at Boston University Questrom School of Business.

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