Here's What CEOs Can Do To Earn The Public's Trust

Make money, do good.

Once lost, trust is not easily recovered.

Just ask Richard Edelman, the president and CEO of Edelman, the world's largest private PR firm. He has personal experience.

In 2014, trust in the company plummeted after the Guardian revealed Edelman represented climate change deniers and coal companies. Months later, the company pledged to stop working with the groups, but a good deal of damage was already done.

In an interview Thursday with The Huffington Post in Davos, Switzerland, Edelman said business leaders would do well to win the public's trust by helping tackle major global problems.

The best CEOs "are not only on making profits," he said, "they're also -- through their businesses -- answering societal problems."

As examples, Edelman specifically called out Unilever CEO Paul Polman, and his work with sustainability; Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz, who is helping with youth unemployment; and General Electric's environmental impact reduction strategy called "Ecomagination." 

"These are people who are making money, and doing that which society wants," Edelman said.

He also encouraged business leaders to interact more -- with both their customers and employees.

"It’s absolutely essential that the CEOs get out, talk, and engage not just with their customers, but also with their employees," he added. "Because their employees are critical to getting across a corporate message … they are much more credible than the CEOs themselves. And in a peer-to-peer world, it’s got to be from the employees."

More stories from the World Economic Forum 2016: