It's been 18 years since Edelman introduced its trust barometer. It had its beginnings following the "Battle for Seattle," a protest activity around the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle in 1999. The appearance of 40,000 protesters in the streets and until then unseen influence of nongovernmental organizations led us to believe that something was going on with the trust in NGOs. This spark led to the Edelman Trust Barometer, which has grown to be the only global piece of research into trust in the key institutions of government, business, media and NGOs.

Over the years, people have become more convinced about the importance of trust. In modern society, we delegate important aspects of our well-being to these four institutions of business (economic well-being), government (national security and public policy), media (information and knowledge) and NGOs (social causes and issues).

To feel safe delegating important aspects of our lives and well-being to others, we need to trust them to act with integrity and with our best interests in mind. Trust, therefore, is at the heart of an individual's relationship with an institution and, by association, its leadership. If trust in these institutions diminishes, we begin to fear that we are no longer in safe, reliable hands. Without trust, the fabric of society can unravel to the detriment of all.