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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A loss of trust in traditional leaders, like government officials and journalists, is pushing people to develop more trusted relationships at work and with their employers, according to Edelman's 2019 Trust Barometer survey.

Why it matters: This crucial shift in the employee-employer relationship creates new opportunities for CEOs and corporate executives to rebuild societal trust, but it also puts an enormous responsibility on them to address complicated issues, from civic inequality to gun control.

By the numbers: Over three fourths (76%) of the respondents from the latest edition of Edelman's annual Trust Barometer survey say CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it, up 11 percentage points from last year.

  • A majority think CEOs can create positive change in issues like equal pay, prejudice and discrimination, training for the jobs of tomorrow and the environment.
  • Nearly three fourths (71%) of employees agree that it's critically important for their CEO to respond to challenges, like industry issues (how automation will change jobs), political events (how elections will impact companies), and national crises.

Yes, but: Employers need to be careful about which issues they address on behalf of their companies. A Morning Consult survey last year found that while support for civil and gay rights are less controversial political positions for brands to take, fewer people think companies should speak out for issues around gun control or politics directly.

There are specific tactics, according to the study, that CEOs can employ to rebuild trust in the workplace:

  • Leading change at the local level by solving problems in the communities in which they operate.
  • Enlisting employees to have a voice regarding certain issues and empowering them to use it.
  • Showing commitment to issues inside and outside the organization through philanthropy or workplace trainings.

Failure to address certain issues in a timely or appropriate matter can be just as problematic as the risk in addressing some sticky topics. The study shows that when leaders fail to uphold the values expected of them, people will push to take power back into their own hands, through tactics like marches and organized walk-outs.

The big picture: Last year was a landmark moment for executive advocacy, and the results from this study and others suggest that the trend will continue leading up to 2020 and beyond.

  • Tech's privacy crisis drove more corporate visibility in Washington. CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Google ad Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified before Congress for the first time.
  • Social movements forced chief executives to be more vocal about certain issues, particularly ones linked to viral social movements, like the #MeToo sexual harassment movement or the #MuslimBan immigration movement.
  • CEOs also began taking the lead to try to find solutions to address society's needs. For example, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon created a new health care company to attempt to tackle rising health-care costs.
  • On climate change, CEOs like Apple’s Tim Cook and Michael Bloomberg have stepped up with company commitments and advocacy as the U.S. has retreated from international climate leadership under President Trump. 
  • CEOs doubled down on philanthropic or self-funded efforts to address societal challenges. Bezos announced a $2 billion effort to help homeless and low-income families access pre-school education. Bloomberg poured $100 million into the midterms to help Democrats win the House of Representatives.

The bottom line: There's more pressure on CEOs than ever to address complicated issues facing society, and those that don't embrace the opportunity could find themselves dealing with frustrated employees and customers.

Go deeper

28 U.S. citizens depart Afghanistan on Qatar Airways flight

Passengers board a Qatar Airways aircraft bound to Qatar at the airport in Kabul on September 10, 2021. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department on Saturday confirmed that a Qatar Airways charter flight left Kabul on Friday with 28 U.S. citizens and seven lawful permanent residents on board.

The big picture: Friday's flight is the third such airlift by Qatar Airways since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, AP reports.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Smaller than expected "Justice for J6" rally met with large police presence

Police officers watch as demonstrators gather for the "Justice for J6" rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2021. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A few hundred demonstrators were met by a heavy law enforcement presence on Saturday at the "Justice for J6" rally outside the fenced-off U.S. Capitol, AP reports.

The latest: Four people were arrested at the rally, including one person with a gun, one with a knife and two with outstanding warrants, per the U.S. Capitol Police.

DHS to increase deportation flights to Haiti from Del Rio

Migrants walk across the Rio Grande River carrying supplies back to a makeshift encampment under the international bridge between Del Rio, Texas, and Acuña, Mexico. Officials are struggling to provide food, water, shelter and sanitation, forcing migrants to cross the Rio Grande several times per day for basic necessities. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Saturday announced plans to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti out of the small Texas border town Del Rio, starting as soon as Sunday.

Why it matters: Reports have emerged of more than 10,000 migrants, primarily from Haiti, crowded in a temporary camp under the international bridge in Del Rio. Hoping to find refuge in the United States, they've had to bear with filthy conditions and the scorching sun for days, per an NBC News affiliate.