Trust in business in Sweden has been in flux throughout 2021. COVID-19 still cast a shadow over the public’s perception of companies and their ability to overcome the pandemic and return to a normal state.
While the average Trust & Like Score (TLS) compared to 2020 improved for the index, the trend in TLS in 2021 pointed downward – starting the year strong and optimistic, and ending it less so.
Some companies did improve their year-on-year TLS – mainly due to strategic positioning or strong financial performance, however, the recovery was primarily halted by implications of the pandemic, and in the latter part of the year by the energy price crisis and growing concerns for rising inflation.
Sweden’s most trusted and liked companies in 2021
At the top of the Sweden OMX S30 index, we find Volvo. The company assumes the number one spot for the third year in a row as Sweden’s most trusted and liked company. However, the year for Volvo was not easy, as the company was affected by supply chain issues due to the global semiconductor and component shortages.
Otherwise in the top-5 of the ranking, we find Essity, which had a strong 2021 increasing its TLS by 2 points. The company has been developing its ESG efforts in recent years, which has gotten national and international acclaim. This could help explain the positive increase in TLS and in the underlying Integrity score.
Electrolux drops one spot in the ranking but sees stability in TLS, while Sandvik in fourth place improves its TLS by 2 points. The increase for Sandvik could be explained by a strong operational performance despite also suffering supply chain imbalances and inflationary pressures.
SKF in fifth place advanced significantly on Integrity and Leadership (underlying metrics also measured by Caliber), which possibly could be the effect of bringing in Rickard Gustafson as new CEO around mid-year.
Perceptions of large investment groups hint at a positive mood on Economic recovery
Investor AB and Kinnevik both improve TLS significantly in 2021. Since they are both large shareholders in many of Sweden’s largest companies, this may hint at a public belief in an economic recovery and resurgence from the impact of the pandemic.
However, the increase in scores is mostly seen in the first half of the year, when the OMX S30 index rallies. In Q3, the tide turns as capital investors are also struck by the negative effect of rising energy prices, prices of materials and rising inflation.
Integrity is the main driver behind the biggest increases and decreases in scores
One of the highest climbers in this year’s ranking is Swedbank. The bank sees its second consecutive year of improving public trust and affinity – the only company to do so in the OMX S30 index. The increase for Swedbank means that it has improved TLS by 9 points since 2019, decidedly ranking above Nordea and SEB, though still behind Handelsbanken. The explanation for the increase in public perception might be found in the bank’s recent efforts to install new processes for the disclosure of information and improve anti-money laundering efforts.
The largest decrease in TLS is seen with AstraZeneca. The 6-point drop is likely connected to the company’s suspended COVID vaccine earlier in the year, which has caught much negative public attention. Perceptions did increase around mid-year, but the steep drop in the first quarter was only partly corrected.
New entrants in the OMX S30 Index
The index introduced two new entrants in 2021 – Sinch and Evolution Gaming.
Sinch enters the ranking in the top-10 – largely propelled by strong perceptions of its innovative product and incredible growth over the year.
Evolution Gaming enters mid-way in the ranking after a tumultuous year in terms of public perceptions. The online gaming specialist benefited from COVID lockdown periods with high levels of activity on its platforms, but since then lost a sizable portion of its market value in late 2021 when it was revealed that it had breached U.S. sanctions by operating in Iran. The incident caused the company to drop in value and public perceptions alike.
New challenges on the horizon
In conclusion, public perceptions of Sweden’s largest companies started the year strongly, propelled by optimism surrounding the re-opening of society and the positive outlook on economic recovery.
However, the strong start was short-lived as new restrictions and recurring fears of COVID outbreaks returned, impacting perceptions of businesses as well.
In the latter part of the year, optimism resumed when the country eased its restrictions, however new issues related to the energy price crisis and inflation pressures meant that the general positive trend of the index in early Q4 was curtailed.
Looking at the development of the first couple of months in 2022, we see that the negative trend in public perceptions continues. Rising inflation, the continued energy price crisis and not least the Ukraine-Russia war are all having a major impact on all global reputation indexes, including the Swedish OMX S30.
ABOUT THE STUDY: The results are based on Caliber’s Real-Time Tracker which measures public perceptions of the OMX S30 companies in Sweden on a daily basis. The scores underpinning the ranking are based on the average responses to 2 separate questions on a 1-7 scale: to what extent do respondents trust and like each company. The scores are then normalized into a 0-100 scale without any weighting or adjustments. The 2021 Full Year results are based on more than 22,500 evaluations collected on a daily basis throughout the year from approx. 10,700 unique respondents, representing the Swedish population along key demographic indicators.
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