TC: This is certainly a bigger conversation—one we will not answer here—about the tension between individual rights and privacy, but also a collective responsibility we hold as a society. Collapsing levels of trust, not to mention widespread misinformation, set the preconditions for a challenging recovery. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, business, government, non-governmental organizations and media have all seen their Trust Index in the U.S. decline precipitously over the course of the last decade. Of those four institutions, business received the highest Trust Index score. Globally, in fact, business is the most-trusted institution and the only institution to earn the “trust” designation on the Trust Index score. I find this fascinating: that business is also the only institution among those four categories viewed as ethical and competent.
ED: It is fascinating, but also depressing, because historically we would have assumed trust for scientists, government experts, and faith and other community leaders. Given this fact, though, business has a chance to lead in ways that may feel different and uncomfortable, but required. If this is true, business really will set the conditions for how we come back to work and back to life as a society. What some have to say about vaccine skepticism, business might counter with invitations to return, safety protocols, clear messaging and expectations for being vaccinated. Clarity is what we need, but even when we get it, sometimes fear and instinct win out. I would encourage everyone, always, to slow down a bit and dig a little deeper—past the fear, to the source.
TC: Right. Business can certainly normalize behaviors and set expectations for our return—even when it comes to the vaccine. According to a Rockefeller Foundation survey, 65 percent of employers plan to offer incentives for employees to get vaccinated, and 63 percent will require some kind of proof of vaccination. Overall, 44 percent will require employees to be vaccinated, 31 percent will just encourage vaccinations and 14 percent will require some employees to be vaccinated. There is this strange dichotomy of some people wanting what they want in terms of freedoms and full access, but also rejecting any sacrifice, individual contribution or community responsibility that might also be required. As long as we live together in a society, my sense is we can’t have both, and some mature voices that remind us of our shared obligation to each other in this collective society will be required. Business might be just that voice.
ED: I’m optimistic about how we stay better together in the short-term. The disturbances created by vaccine decision-making and policies bringing us back to the office will reveal more of what we have to work through and work on together as leaders. There’s no finish line here, but part of our truth as a city, state and country is that the challenges we are seeing with our recovery are indicators of where community and collective responsibility may have atrophied. Those challenges are where strong leaders can step in and remind us of our shared obligation. As we open up, to see each other face to face and greet each other again, maybe there will be softening there. And if businesses lead the way in that, as they are in so many ways—hybrid work environments, a return to the Loop—I think that’s a great use of power.