Consumers in Asia are just as distrustful of big business as those in the U.S., according to a new survey released by Golin/Harris International. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Asians believe “recent events have caused a crisis of confidence and trust in the way we do business” in the region.

The survey, conducted in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore, also discovered that when thinking about the future, 86 percent of Asians surveyed agree that “from now on I am going to be more careful about which companies I trust”.  These levels of apprehension are even more intense than in the U.S., where Golin research found that 69 percent of Americans said they don’t know who in business to trust anymore.

Among the four markets surveyed, the Tokyo respondents feel the crisis most acutely, with 85 percent saying Asian business is in crisis, compared to 71 percent in Taipei, 68 percent in Hong Kong and 67 percent in Singapore. All four markets evinced even more concern about the future, with 95 percent of the Taipei participants cautioning they will be more careful about whom to trust moving forward, followed by 84 percent of the respondents from Singapore, 82 percent of those in Tokyo and 80 percent in Hong Kong.

“The research suggests three reasons why the crisis of trust in Asian business is so profound,” explained Anne Forrest, Golin/Harris’ managing director for Asia.  “First, the erosion of trust, like the economic downturn, is a worldwide phenomenon.  This is more than just ‘when America sneezes, Asia catches cold.’  Because our economic lives and livelihoods are so interconnected globally, the decline of confidence in one region has dramatic ramifications in all others.

“Asia itself is undergoing tremendous transformation at all levels—economically, politically, culturally and socially.  The crisis of trust is a mirror of the crisis of change that is shaping Asia as we move into the 21st century. In these times of intense change, trust moves to the forefront, for trust is the glue that holds together people and institutions.”

Interestingly, the Golin/Harris research reveals that Asians trust—and mistrust—specific businesses differently than Americans. In the U.S., the most trusted businesses are supermarkets, major retailers, and drug stores, while in Asia, the most trusted are electric power, computer and telecommunications companies. The least trusted in the U.S. are oil and gas, insurance, and securities and investment banks, while the least trusted in Asia are property developers, health and beauty companies, and the media.

When asked what a business can do to foster trust, respondents across Asia selected the five most important steps for company to initiate:
· Be open and honest in business practices   87 percent
· Provide the best value products and services   87 percent
· Communicate clearly, frequently and straightforwardly 86 percent
· Be profitable and financially solid    83 percent
· Show concern and consideration for employees  81 percent