This article first appeared in La Tercera on February 18, 2021.

A few days ago, Transparency International released the Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, which shows something that the entity had already warned last April: the coronavirus pandemic has not only meant a health and economic crisis, but has also deepened corruption worldwide, revealing that more than two thirds of the countries are corrupt. Chile is ranked 25th with 67 points, and although it rose one position in relation to the previous year, the score has been constant in recent years, so it remains stagnant despite being the second least corrupt country in Latin America.

The fact that Chile is stagnant in the perception of corruption shows that efforts have been insufficient in this area, especially if we consider the feeling of impunity and injustice after the major corruption scandals and the low penalties to which their protagonists were exposed.

Today, when we live in an atypical, difficult and uncertain scenario, is when we need to believe and regain confidence. But, on the contrary, optimism comes to naught when we see that there are those who prefer to take advantage of the loopholes to make individual profits, regardless of the rules, much less ethics.

How do we regain confidence when we see that the rules of the game are so easy to circumvent or that those in charge of probity act unfairly?

This topic was precisely one of those discussed at the Davos 2021 Annual Assembly, organized by the World Economic Forum, because trust is at stake not only in Chile, but in the whole world, and it is a duty to reflect on how we build together a better future in which we can believe, especially considering the context of emergency and hyperconnected societies that have yielded great power to technology.

And along these lines, the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 survey, which measured trust in 28 countries on five continents, revealed that distrust has increased fueled by a rampant “infodemia”, where fake news proliferates and does not allow us to distinguish reality and where social leaders (government authorities, CEOs, journalists and even religious leaders) are not believed.

However, one of the big surprises of this survey was given by companies, which were the most trusted institutions when compared to governments, NGOs and the media. In fact, for 61% of the respondents, companies would be the most trusted institutions worldwide, considered ethical and competent at the same time. The pandemic itself has helped to raise their positioning and trust, as evidenced by 76% of respondents trusting their employer and 63% trusting the CEO of the company where they work.

This increase in business confidence, which occurs in several countries according to this survey, should be an impulse for Chilean companies to accept their role and solve the challenges we face in this crisis and guide actions to overcome it, with clear and open information channels, with boards and general managers with a social commitment, who act with empathy, who speak frankly, and who are willing to exercise leadership, in which they define a purpose, make it their own and involve the rest of the organization. A purpose, by the way, that sets a minimum ethical standard, in which it matters as much, if not more, how to achieve the goals than how to achieve them.

We are in the process of vaccination to eliminate this coronavirus pandemic, thanks to expert and committed leaders in the health area, who after arduous teamwork and a defined purpose have given us back the hope of recovering our normality. This is an example that serves as a guide for us to face the pandemic of mistrust that prevents us from moving forward. We know that the impulse must be collective, but we need leaders who promote good practices, who go beyond the established laws and do not wait for regulations that are processed slowly in the parliament, because what we need are referents that take the speech to action and allow us to believe and trust.

By: Susana Sierra