A foundation of trust

Increasing confidence and building trust among stakeholders begins with articulating ethical principles and a code of conduct that guide organizational behavior. Clearly communicating a commitment to values such as compassion, responsibility, respect, fairness and truth demonstrates an organization shares the values of its stakeholders and helps overcome the bias many people today have against size and scale. 

How third-party verification grows trust.

Posting values and ethical commitments on a web site or pinning up posters in a break room aren’t enough in today’s communication environment. Stakeholders today are shrewd. They want to see a clear demonstration of values in action. Authentic transparency has evolved from a best practice to a requirement for groups and organizations wanting to be trusted. Stakeholders expect clear and consistent evidence of organizational commitment and the opportunity to be heard and engaged.  

Authentic transparency can transform a damaged relationship by reducing fear of the unknown and creating a platform for building trust based on shared values. Demonstrating competency begins with a commitment to follow industry best practices, certification, self-assessment and third-party verification.  

There are best practices related to food safety, animal care, worker safety, sustainability and other critical functions throughout the food system. Following best practices illustrates a commitment to competency. CFI’s research has shown that failing to follow best practices is a sure way to spark social outrage.  

The research on transparency shows that information about a company’s practices is critical to building trust because practices are a demonstration of values in action. Committing to industry best practices and then sharing those practices builds trust. 

Self-assessment is a metric-based evaluation of performance against best practices. Being transparent about a company’s practices is a great starting point. Having and sharing metrics on performance is the next step in demonstrating competency. Sharing the results of a self-assessment is beneficial but not as powerful as third-party validation. 

President Ronald Reagan’s strategy during the Cold War was, “Trust but verify.” It applies to today’s food system as well. Skeptical consumers want to know that certification and third-party oversight are regular activities across the food system, especially when it comes to food safety and animal well-being. Sharing the results of third-party verification contributes to the perception of transparency and ultimately trustworthiness.  

If you’re interested in learning more about doing what’s right and building trust among stakeholders, check out Charlie Arnot’s book, Size Matters, at Amazon