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7 elements of trust-building for your ag organization

Center for Food Integrity director explains how you can best be transparent with your stakeholders.

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Consumers and stakeholders in the agrifood industry can have a natural tendency to be skeptical or at times mistrusting.

However, being fully transparent with all stakeholders is a good way to build confidence in your company or organization, Roxi Beck, director of consumer engagement for the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) told attendees of the 2024 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit on May 8 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Transparency we know is a direct pathway to trust building,” said Beck. “We understand that that helps overcome biases.”

But sometimes even when a business or organization thinks they are being transparent, there could still be some areas where they fall short. Beck went over the CFI’s seven elements of trust-building, which can be used as a guide. Those seven elements are:

Motivation

When your aim is to be truly transparent, you must be motivated to act in a manner that is ethical, Beck said. Your actions also need to be consistent with the interests of the stakeholders.

Disclosure

True disclosure is sharing all of the information publicly, whether it is positive or negative. When you are being forthcoming with information, don’t do so kust because you are being asked.

“This is about saying we’re happy to share information about our business,” Beck said.

The added that the information you share must actually be useable. Not all players in the industry have abided by that principle.

“We saw some companies who shall not be named have some pretty bad behavior, where they would say, ‘You want information? Here’s a 3,000-page summary. Good luck,’” Beck said.  

Stakeholder participation

Active exchange of information, is needed. This can be described as a back and forth with people who are interested in learning more information about your business activities and the related impacts.

It is also important that stakeholders have a pathway to reach you.

Be aware of the topics that are important to stakeholders. This also includes the employee stakeholders.  Know what they think and make sure they know what is going on within your organization.

Also, keep in mind that most stakeholders “won’t expect you to be perfect every single time,” and there will be some level of understandings if all expectations aren’t met.

Relevance

The information you share needs to be relevant, useful, accurate. Also, the topics you deem relevant may not necessarily be relevant to the other stakeholders, so make sure that you are asking questions. You won’t know what is relevant to others unless you engage with them.

Clarity

Is the information you share easily obtained and easily understood? Don’t get too technical. There’s nothing wrong with explaining things at the fourth-grade level, Beck noted.

Credibility

Credibility is directly linked to integrity. Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does your company or organization have a reputation?
  • Does it have a history of doing things in a way that’s consistent with what the external stakeholder interests are?
  • Do you admit when you make a mistake?

Also, when you do make a mistake, make sure you take responsibility for it and also use it as a learning experience. Be sure to put practices into place so those mistakes or missteps don’t get repeated.

Accuracy

To be accurate is a matter of providing actionable information that cannot be misinterpreted. Such information should be reliable, steady, reputable and complete.

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