Customers looking for value-based trust in the business they interact with

Now more than ever it is important for companies to establish trust with their customers. Trust in a product or a brand is the foundation that creates loyalty and that builds a brand for years to come.

Trust is linked to the values that a company expresses and the actions that it pursues in terms of playing a positive role in society. Mission- or purpose-driven organizations understand that they must move beyond simply providing good products and services to making a more substantive contribution to our collective wellbeing. Such businesses are stepping up to the plate and demonstrating socially responsible behaviours through the pursuit of the sustainable development goals.

Created by the UN, the sustainable development goals are a “universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.” The17 goals build upon the success of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas that recognize the changes occurring in the world around us, such as climate change and economic inequality.

While the goals were established to help our planet and people, companies that are spearheading initiatives in pursuit of the goals are able to both increase consumer trust in their brands while simultaneously helping the communities they serve; i.e., they can do well by doing good.

Nike is a prime example of this approach. While looking to boost their sales to $50 bilion by 2020 they have also committed to a number of sustainable development goals. For instance, they have committed to sourcing 100% of products from contract factories that meet the company’s definition of being sustainable. They also plan to achieve 100% usage of renewable energy at Nike-owned and operated facilities by 2025.

Nike isn’t the only ones either. AirBnB is helping refugee relief workers with places to stay. Unilever is moving towards getting rid of one-time use plastics, and TripAdvisor is partnering with GlobalGiving to identify and support locally-driven nonprofits with sustainable development focused missions – just to name a few.

More and more companies are doing their best to demonstrate to customers that they are socially responsible and care about more than just the bottom line. Companies that commit to the sustainable development goals are showing themselves to be corporate leaders and as a result are increasingly building consumer trust in their brands.

The Gustavson School of Business is intimately aware of the importance of brand trust, which is why each year we survey more than 7,000 Canadians to see the level of trust they hold with over 300 different brands. The Gustavson Brand Trust Index (GBTI) measures the relationship between social equity, trust, and advocacy for brands in Canada. Now in its fifth year the GBTI, whose results will be unveiled on May 1, continues to highlight the role trust plays in the minds of consumers when making purchasing decisions. While the performance of a brand and the functionality of the product are very important, consumers are increasingly demanding that brands be socially responsible and demonstrate values that align with their own.

We too, at the Gustavson School, have put a stake in the ground in the interest of making a positive change for the planet and society, by fully offsetting our carbon emissions, the bulk of which derive from student and faculty travel. We call on all organizations to join us in taking such voluntary actions to establish themselves as leaders in the fight to mitigate climate change, as well as in pursuit of the sustainable development goals.

To connect with consumers who are increasingly concerned about serious social and environmental challenges, now is the time for corporations to help consumers realize their aspirations for a more purposeful life.

Saul Klein, PhD
Dean of the Gustavson School of Business

About the Gustavson Brand Trust Index:
The Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria conducts an annual survey to assess consumer trust across more than 300 different brands and what leads consumers to recommend a brand to their friends and family. Besides the functional performance of a brand (quality, reliability, value for money) and the way it relates to its customers, consumers also pay close attention to a brand’s values and its commitment to social responsibility. For more information on the Gustavson Brand Trust Index, please visit

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