January 22, 2020

Trust: The most valued currency in the 21st century

Over the years, AM International has witnessed multiple factors that have led to its business success – customer-focused products, effective marketing strategies, cost-efficiency and financial prudence. But, if I had to point to one common factor across our market-leading businesses in fertilisers, petrochemicals, distribution, infrastructure, health care or green energy, I’d say it is ‘trust’.

Building trust through good conduct and actions is of paramount importance. It is perhaps more crucial today than ever before. In many ways, the digital era has led to a world that is complex and impersonal. Not so long ago, people knew the enterprises with which they conducted business. Even at an individual level, consumers were aware of the companies or brands they were availing products and services. Today, internet commerce has become more and more pervasive. People are availing goods and services at the click of a button. The exchanges are impersonal and increasingly necessitate the establishment of trust.

On the one hand, issues of mistrust pervade institutions – both traditional and new-age. Studies have shown that overall trust in government, media, business and other organisations is at an all-time low. A universal weakening of trust certainly has an impact on the people’s outlook, especially the younger generation, towards business. According to the Deloitte 2019 Millennials Survey, millennials are sceptical of business’s motives. They do not think highly of leaders’ impact on society, their commitment to improving the world, or their trustworthiness.

When trust is low, the cost of doing business is high.

On the other hand, every individual and corporation is leaving behind digital footprints which are open to scrutiny and impossible to erase in today’s connected world. The business world has become fragile. A single misstep by the leadership or corporation can lead to value destruction. Moreover, regulatory compliance and vigilantism ensure that nobody can hide behind the veil for too long. One’s conduct should implicitly build trust across the stakeholder ecosystem.

As a leader, you can’t solve large-scale societal problems without building trust. Regardless of the challenges at hand, from driving cost efficiencies to entering new markets or serving the community, trust is the bedrock that helps you make the right choices.crumble like a pack of cards.

Cultivating trust through ethical conduct is imperative for any business, that wants to gain a competitive edge in an increasingly low-trust world.

Recently I sat together with the leadership team at SPIC (Southern Petrochemical Industries Corporation Ltd.), reflecting on our journey of 50 years. I’m glad what stood out as a core principle guiding our decisions was ‘trust’. After all, it is said, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.”

As we step into the new year and a new decade, ‘trust’ will be the most valued currency for every business.