News & Insights

Trust in European businesses and their CEOs rebounds, with sustainability action now the driving factor

BOLDT and Mettle Capital ‘big data’ report finds that European businesses and their CEOs are now more trusted than US counterparts

LONDON – BOLDT, the pan-European business strategy and communications consultancy, today released trust and ESG reputation data from analysis partner Mettle Capital that shows European businesses – and their CEOs in particular – have regained public trust after the pandemic shockwaves of 2020.

The analysis, carried out using proven analytical models to assess data on attitudes, actions and behaviours in the public domain rather than through an opinion-driven survey, mined more than 40 million conversations and pieces of content across more than 2,500 companies. It shows that trust in businesses has rebounded to 2019 levels, with European corporate trust now on a par or exceeding that of US firms, and higher levels shown by businesses that have been able to adapt best to the challenges created by COVID-19.

The report also points to CEOs being an ever-more important driver of positive reputation and sentiment as businesses look to uphold trust levels. CEOs have been challenged like never before to communicate more publicly and fully over the past two years, both internally and externally. 

Firms that have been more vocal on environmental issues typically built greater trust during 2021, particularly in the second half of the year, the data showed. But the analysis also showed rising public concerns around greenwashing, with ‘fakery’, often over environmental credentials and action, being the biggest factor in falling sentiment.

The analysis also shows that:

  • Privacy and data safety are among the fastest growing public concerns impacting business reputations over the past two to three years. Business in general is still net positive on trust – but for tech and financial services companies, this is an area of particular vulnerability and concern
  • Companies have been rewarded for their ability to ‘solve problems’, such as continuing to operate with stretched supply chains, and to continue to operate and often grow in a challenging business environment 
  • Companies that acknowledge and speak to the issues their stakeholders care about are more trusted than those which don’t 

The dataset enables us to look at the individual performance of more than 2,500 listed and non-listed companies across Europe and the USA – ranking companies within their country and sector peer groups – helping to identify what makes the best performers stand out.

For example, the 10 most trusted companies in Europe in 2021 were:

  1. Deutsche Post – Transportation
  2. Logitech International – Technology & Communications
  3. Schneider Electric – Resources Transformation
  4. Fugro – Extractives & Minerals Processing
  5. Ericsson – Technology & Communications
  6. GN Store Nord – Healthcare
  7. Publicis – Services
  8. Dassault Systems -Technology & Communications
  9. ABB – Resources Transformation
  10. DSM Kon – Resources Transformation

And the 10 most improved European companies for trust in 2021 were

  1. Fugro – Extractives & Minerals Processing
  2. Alfa Laval – Resources Transformation
  3. Dassault Systems – Technology & Communications
  4. Assa Abloy – Infrastructure
  5. Eni – Extractives & Minerals Processing
  6. Arcadis – Extractives & Minerals Processing
  7. Airbus – Resources Transformation
  8. BALYO – Resources Transformation
  9. Tullow Oil – Extractives & Minerals Processing
  10. Talktalk – Technology & Communications

In every case these companies performed particularly strongly on the most material drivers, especially ‘problem solving’. And in every case their CEO was seen as a significant asset. While many of the top 10 overall performers have seen high levels of trust for years, the improvers list includes both expected and unexpected risers.

Whereas BOLDT and Mettle Capital analysis in early 2021 found that the most significant ESG reputation risk across 2020 was business ethics, this year’s report expanded its scope to include Mettle’s Trust data sets.

Further detail on the findings is available from BOLDT in a summary report.



Jon Rhodes, BOLDT Partner: “Businesses have generally rebuilt trust that was lost in the first year of the pandemic, but their actions and their leaders are now more in the frame as they navigate change. This is a rigorous view across more than 40 million conversations, harnessing a dataset and methodology that is used by some of the world’s leading banks and asset managers.

“Our ‘big data’ approach enables us to analyse actual actions and attitudes to businesses during 2021 – what people really did and said. This is different; not just another survey collating post facto reflections. It can deliver acute insights for determining communications strategy and understanding what matters most in communicating ESG factors,” he said.

Dr Andrew Tucker, Mettle Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist: “The data shows that businesses which are rebuilding trust require well-respected CEOs, honest communication about the issues they face in a challenging environment, and the ability to deliver solutions to those problems.

“The breadth and granularity of Mettle Capital data allows us not just to identify the broad trends of improved corporate trust but to really break those down by identifying specific geographies, sectors and companies that are trusted, those that are improving trust and the specific topics that underpin those outcomes,” he said.