Business Must Embrace a Leadership Role

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A roadmap for businesses looking to take a leadership role in building trust

Last week, we explored the need for businesses to take a leadership role in (re)building trust amongst the public in an increasingly divided and polarized world. Businesses are the only entity in the Edelman Trust Barometer study that is trusted to do so, creating not just an opportunity but a need. The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed business is the only institution viewed as ethical and competent.

Business now holds a staggering 53-point lead over government incompetence and is 30 points ahead on ethics. Business has an opportunity to emerge as an ethical force for good in a polarized world. But what is the roadmap for business? 

First, business must continue to lead. As the most trusted institution, business has greater expectations and responsibility to take a leadership role. Businesses can leverage this advantage to inform debate and help deliver solutions. We see this locally with businesses taking the lead on skills training, local youth apprenticeships, and engagement with local nonprofit groups such as Vail Health Behavioral Health, Walking Mountains Climate Action Collaborative, and numerous other environmental and social solutions to community challenges.

Supporting and working with nonprofits is not enough; the business community must also collaborate with our local governments. The best results come when business and government work together, not independently. Business leaders must build consensus and collaborate on policies and standards that deliver results toward a thriving society. Numerous local examples of collaboration exist, most recently the creation of the Eagle Valley Transportation Authority and Vail’s Timber Ridge housing redevelopment. The collaboration between business and government provides balance and private sector solutions to community problems. Our local business community, local governments, and special districts have proven again and again that we are better when we work together.

Business also plays a role in restoring economic optimism. A grim economic view is both a driver and an outcome of polarization. Businesses must invest in fair compensation, employee training, and local communities to address the mass-class divide and the cycle of polarization. Economic optimism can also have a positive effect on consumer confidence, which can lead to increased consumer spending. This can further boost the revenues of businesses and help them to grow. We see this locally with businesses looking to expand their operations and the continued engagement with youth workforce and Vail Valley Works professional development programming.

Businesses must also advocate for the truth. Businesses play an essential role in the information ecosystem. Businesses can be a source of reliable information, promote civil discourse, and ensure false information isn’t dispensed. Consumers value transparency and honesty in their interactions with businesses. If a business is known to be a reliable source of information and is seen as trustworthy, this can lead to increased customer loyalty, positive word-of-mouth referrals, and a stronger brand reputation.

Businesses have a social responsibility to contribute to the well-being of the communities in which they operate. Businesses can show that they care about their communities and are committed to making a positive impact by being civic-minded and embracing their leadership role.

Being civic-minded can also provide businesses with a competitive advantage. Consumers are increasingly looking for businesses that align with their values and are committed to social responsibility. Businesses can differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract socially conscious customers by being part of the solution to community and societal challenges.

The data shows that businesses are trusted more than the government, non-governmental organizations, and the media. The opportunity exists for businesses to continue to collaborate and continue to lead. It is more than an opportunity; it is a necessity.


Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at