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Trust & Resilience
5 minute read

Five actions C-suite leaders can take to protect digital trust

In business and society, digital trust is critical to achieving the benefits of technological advances. However, growing digital threats undermine stakeholder trust and limit organisations’ ability to pursue their purpose.

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key takeaways

Executives often place the ownership of digital trust within the IT department, but we see a future where digital trust moves to the business.


C-suite leaders should be proactive and persistent in pursuing digital solutions that establish trust.


Leaders should collaborate and use their broad perspective to sense and respond to the risks that affect stakeholder trust across the organisation.

The C-suite has an important role in increasing the organisation’s digital trust with stake-holders as well as supporting the development of trust-enabling technologies in ways that go beyond simply allocating investment dollars. A CEO survey from 2022 shows that CEOs consider technology and innovation as well as digital privacy and protection among their top two trust concerns.

This article discusses the importance of digital trust as a key organisational asset and the role that the C-suite leaders play.

Action 1: Define what digital trust means across different contexts in the enterprise

Trust is integral to organisations’ success – a fact that has become increasingly apparent over the past several months of socioeconomic and geopolitical challenges. At its core, digital trust is the confidence that customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders have in a brand that governs its digital assets with competence and the desired intent. Digital trust is driven by data transparency and accessibility, security and reliability, privacy and control, and ethics and responsibility.

What digital trust means to one organisation and how the organisation engenders that trust will differ depending on the organisation’s sector and the stakeholders it serves.

To strengthen digital trust: Establish a digital trust formula supporting your enterprise’s strategic objectives such as enhancing customer relationships, optimising operational excellence, and enabling business functions that are core to your value proposition. Once developed, establish means to measure and improve your digital trust performance over time.

Action 2: Assume a collective leadership mindset when managing digital trust

Manage digital trust across the enterprise – just as you would any other aspect of enterprise performance and risk. Assess the data threats and vulnerabilities that may exist in different business functions such as marketing, finance and procurement. Monitor and evaluate the changing global regulatory landscape and evolving customer expectations around privacy and data governance, cybersecurity and digital identity.

Additionally, avoid operating in silos when managing digital trust so that everyone under-stands what data and processes should be protected and how different functions will work together to do so.

To strengthen digital trust: Adopt a federated model of responsibility for digital trust with shared goals across the C-suite. As an executive, identify the different operating areas (tech, cyber ops, customer service, etc.) that impact digital trust in your enterprise and align the applicable strategy and vision across these areas.

Action 3: Continue to learn about emerging technologies – how they are used and the risks and opportunities they present – and educate the organisation, accordingly

At the end of the day, education and understanding are critically important to preserve digital trust. C-suite executives need to stay close to technological developments, understand their implications and lead and manage innovation and adoption while minimising risks. They also need education and awareness of technology and its risks and rewards.

While IT leaders within a company may educate executives about how technologies like AI or blockchain support the organisation’s core purpose and strategy, they may not educate leaders on the potential risks those technologies pose to target outcomes.

C-suite executives can help minimise threats to the organisation by requesting more information from subject matter specialists to understand these risks and how emerging technologies can also be used to address the threats, both now and in the future.

Understand the role of trust-enabling technology within its business context. Customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders need to trust that your organisation will reliably protect their data and interests. This requires the right people, processes and technology.

To strengthen digital trust: Inculcate trust as an evaluating factor across new technology adoptions. Working closely with the company’s technology leaders, identify the areas where digital trust can be strengthened or eroded.

Action 4: Communicate to build a digital trust-preserving culture

Spread the news. Leaders should communicate to the broader organisation and stakeholders that the organisation is committed to maintaining digital trust and investing in capabilities to drive it. This approach includes communicating how digital trust manifests in their industry, how digital trust can be won or lost with different stakeholders, and how the organisation maintains trust with regulators. They should acknowledge the risk to digital trust from different technologies and provide related risk awareness training to all employees. Regular digital trust briefings to the board should also be conducted.

Actions speak louder than words. Communicate commitment in tangible ways. Implement strategies, procedures and processes to preserve digital trust and drive adoption of trust-enabling technologies.

Inspire the entire organisation to commit to preserving digital trust. Employees across an organisation also need to assume ownership of digital trust in their day-to-day work. This can happen when organisations provide resources and tools that empower all employees to understand the role of data security within the context of their work and have security conversations with their stakeholders so that digital trust remains a top-of-mind objective.

To strengthen digital trust: Commit to programs that reinforce individual and leader accountability for building and preserving digital trust. Align incentives to encourage trustworthy behaviours. Take steps to paint the organisation’s trust-enabling story with your stakeholders, establishing your commitment in the marketplace.

Action 5: Measure the value of digital trust dynamically

Use metrics contextually. Just as the meaning of “digital trust” is context-specific, so too are the metrics used to measure digital trust and the value of trust-enabling technologies.

The metrics employed should also reflect how the technologies affect different stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, the board and others. Move away from over-reliance on cost-centric measures only and move more towards measures that reflect and drive cost optimisation, value preservation or protection and value creation through stronger customer loyalty, greater organizational resilience and investor confidence.

To strengthen digital trust: Implement solutions to diagnose stakeholder trust levels over time. From simple surveys to complex trust measurement platforms, solutions exist to help make trust measurement practical and repeatable. Also, when allocating budget for trust-enabling technologies, incorporate benefits including customer loyalty and organisational resilience into digital trust formulas.

You can read the full article here.