When Edelman convened a group of innovators in Silicon Valley to discuss the state of trust in the energy, automotive and chemical sectors, the conversation was clear about one thing. Tech companies excel at engaging stakeholders, demonstrating purpose and providing transparency – the very things with which traditional energy companies need most help.
The event kicked off with findings from the Edelman Trust Barometer:
- Cleantech continues to be the most trusted sub-sector of energy, despite VC investor anathema to the term (if you haven’t already check-out our latest post The Industry Formerly Known as Cleantech – A Q&A with Bryan Birsic)
- There is increased cleantech trust in 11 countries. China, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, India and Brazil are blazing the path – but Germany also saw a jump in cleantech trust despite electricity pricing tension in that country.
- 23 out of 27 countries reported lower trust in the automotive industry – likely due to distrust in innovation that moves “too fast” and lacks contextual purpose resulting in problems like recalls.
- Energy companies need to up their game protecting customer data, being transparent and embracing sustainable business practices.
Here’s how the conversation leaders reacted to the insights:
Q: How does trust play a role in your job?
Emilio Camacho of the California Energy Commission mentioned the “importance of communicating what you do, so that the public understands the value of what you do, and also…[being] accessible and a good listener.” Asim Hussain of Bloom Energy mentions that “trust is a fundamental core component” of how Bloom operates since they are providing customers with a reason to believe in a new solution and backing that up by going above and beyond the responsibilities of a typical energy services provider.
Q: How do you build trust with communities and stakeholders within the solar industry?
According to Laura Abram of First Solar, “engage early and often, follow through on promises and listen.”
Q: With helping modernize the grid, how are energy companies proving that they are protecting energy data?
Through research and testing in partnership with the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative and other organizations, Lisa Magnuson of Silver Spring found that data privacy, health and security are among the top grid concerns among consumers. Through engaging proactively with consumers the company was able to shape trust and ensure they understood that concerns are being addressed. Lisa spoke about the evolution of utilities in conjunction with the smart grid and how they are changing the way they communicate with their customers – rather than sending a bill, there is a “near real-time exchange of information that empowers and enables consumers, as well as the utility.”
Q: How do you earn the license to innovate with such a precious resource as water?
1.5 million gallons per minute of water is currently being processed by customers and end users using Dow’s technologies all across the globe, according to Abhishek Shrivastava. Demonstrating operational integrity, solid performance and track record, and transparency about sustainability and purpose is key for Dow to enjoy that license to innovate.
Q: How has engaging third parties helped foster trust?
Lisa reminded the audience to consider diverse stakeholder groups. For example, Silver Spring established a partnership with the National Council of Churches to provide a toolkit for educating congregants on the benefits of emerging technologies in protecting the environment. Lisa mentions that “if you can educate third party advocates they can educate their peers.”
If you are interested in learning more about our Trust Barometer results, be sure to check out our findings on the website.