February 13, 2013

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Trust Barometer Reveals Canadian Advantage

On February 7, Edelman Canada CEO John Clinton presented the findings of the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer  at a Vancouver Board of Trade lunch. One statistic has particular significance for the B.C. market.

In a survey of 26 countries, Canadian companies were identified as the most trusted in the world. It’s not surprising to me Canadian businesses would be generally well regarded thanks to our country’s strong international reputation, but to be the most trusted is an accomplishment worth recognition.

This has obvious implications for any Canadian-headquartered company with international customers or aspirations.  I can’t help but think it is even more important for British Columbia’s economic prosperity. The province is uniquely positioned (both geographically and culturally) as North American’s gateway to the Asia-Pacific, home to some of the most significant and growing economies in the world. Combined with such a high-level of trust, B.C. companies have an edge over their international competitors.

Some industries have already seen success in key markets by collaborating under a collective umbrella. Forest Innovation Investment (FII) is the B.C. government’s market development agency for forest products.  The Chinese-focused arm of this organization (FII China) has seen remarkable results since 2003 thanks to a partnership between industry members, and the provincial and federal governments. By working together and leveraging the Canadian brand, they successfully educated an enormous market about the benefits of using B.C. wood. The results speak for themselves.  According to FII, sales to China increased 1,300 per cent between 2003 and 2011, and China became only the third international market for B.C. to export $1 billion worth of forest products in a year. Starting in 2012, market development has been further consolidated under Canada Wood, whose website cites “…developing a Team Canada approach to market development” as part of their objective.

Could companies in this sector have experienced these growth levels independently? Possibly.  But there are real benefits to leveraging the Canadian brand, particularly in emerging markets, where the Edelman Trust Barometer tells us big businesses are more trusted than small businesses.

This isn’t a carte blanche to operate. Canadian companies must continue demonstrating the behaviours that have earned them this trust.

We have seen how quickly trust can evaporate with a significant misstep; Trust from Japan’s informed public dropped 17 percentage points between 2011 and 2012 following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, for example.

It will be interesting to see if this trust in Canadian companies will extend to Canadian natural resources. British Columbia is competing with other jurisdictions like Qatar and Australia to get our natural gas to the hungry Asian markets. Will our global reputation make our product more desirable to customers?

Matt MacInnis is a Senior Account Manager at Edelman Vancouver. 

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