FRESNO -- Ponzi schemes, bank and auto industry bailouts and exorbitant Wall Street salaries have sent the public's trust in corporate America to new lows, but examples of integrity can be found among local businesses.
That was the message the president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus brought to the Northern San Joaquin Valley last week, with stops in Visalia and Stockton.
"You don't have to look very far to recognize we are in a trust deficit," said Steve Cox, president of the organization that represents the nation's Better Business Bureaus. "It is lower now than it was at the time of the Enron scandal and dot-com crash."
In an interview before his speech at the annual Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics in Visalia, Cox said the distrust is reflected in a boost in calls for service at 110 Better Business Bureaus in the United States and 14 in Canada.
The Torch Awards are presented annually by the Central Valley chapter of the Better Business Bureau to businesses with strong ethical policies. Willey Tile of Fresno and the temporary-employment agency Spherion were honored.
Cox said the number of people who file complaints against a business, access reliability reports online or make other calls for service climbed from 100 million nationwide in 2006 to about 130 million in 2009.
"You can spend five minutes watching 'Headline News' and scan headlines and see any number of issues that cause you to be cynical to business," Cox said.
As evidence, he cites the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, which has been ranking public trust globally for a decade. Thirty-eight percent of 25- to 64-year-olds surveyed in 20 nations trust corporations to do the right thing. In 2008, it was 58 percent.
Corporations must put customer focus and trust at the forefront of their efforts, Cox said. "Businesses have to deliver on their promises and do what they say they are going to do," he said.