I found some reinforcement from an unexpected source recently for my long-held belief that trust, actually the lack thereof, is one of the primary reasons why business must embrace social issues. It was a remark by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who happened to precede me as a speaker at a conference in Calgary, Alberta.

Of course, this is not an everyday occurrence for me; in fact, it was a total shock and the experience of a lifetime that I was asked to share the stage with perhaps the most humble and serene individual in the world. (For more on this transformative experience, see my post on the "What do you stand for?" blog.)

Just before I followed him onstage, the Dalai Lama said,

“Trust is the basis of harmony."

I was thankful for that, because trust was the first point I had planned to discuss. Trust, I said, is absolutely critical in order to earn a daily license to operate, to attract and retain the best employees, to relate to today's ever more skeptical consumers, communities, NGOs and government officials.

This also is the central message of the Page Society's Trust Report, published in partnership with the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics. In fact, the most important recommendation in that report, I believe, is the one encouraging businesses to align their core business objectives with the public interest.

As the Dalai Lama said in Calgary,

“We need to cultivate universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share."

Not a bad message for business leaders who want to earn the public trust.