It's encouraging when the Harvard Business Review agrees with you. That was my initial reaction when I saw the bright yellow cover of the most recent issue of HBR highlighting the topic for the month -- "Rebuilding Trust" -- and featuring a smashed coffee cup to symbolize just how much things are broken. It's the same topic of the Page white paper - “The Dynamics of Public Trust in Business - Emerging Opportunities for Leaders” - released this morning. The paper, which we developed in conjunction with the Business Roundtable Institute on Corporate Ethics, specifically addresses the current crisis of trust in business and lays out some approaches that we might take to start to rebuild that trust.

We don’t pretend that the report is the last word on the issue. Nor is it meant to be a definitive position that's endorsed by all Page members. It does, however, provide a new framework for understanding how public trust operates. It highlights the importance of three core dynamics in relationships between business and stakeholder groups - the fact that we have shared values and interests, that we share risks and opportunities, and that a feeling of vulnerability can be detrimental to the building of trust.

Understanding these dynamics can point the way to solutions. What I hope is that the report is a significant contribution to the debate, and that that debate amongst members of the Society will be vigorous and productive.

Of course we can always ask “Does it really matter? Why are we even spending time talking about this issue?” I strongly believe that this is a fundamental business issue that's important to every organization, and so it's a very relevant and important topic for us to be discussing. Without society's approval, ultimately business cannot survive. Companies that can figure out how to align their core business objectives with the public interest can earn trust, and that is essential to the achievement of business objectives. And when trust is broken as much as it is now, I believe that it is incumbent on business to take the initiative -- as Anne Mulcahy, Chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation and Chairman of the Business Roundtable Corporate Leadership Initiative, says in commenting on the report, we have "an opportunity to step forward." The ongoing relationship between the Page Society and the BRT Institute will provide an opportunity for business and academic leaders to work together on building and sustaining trust, and make a commitment that can change reality. That would be an important contribution for us to have made to the future of society and of the profession.