Has the world as we know it reached a tipping point? This is a question that Quantum5 is seeking to explore at the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos.
This is the first Davos meeting of the “Decisive Decade,” which comes amid a world in turmoil - the climate emergency, the menacing rise of populism, unacceptable income inequality threatening global economic and political instability, rampant profiteering by the worlds multinational corporations, cultural and religious conflicts and a sense of a despairing future for GenZ.
So, it is appropriate for this year’s theme for the World Economic Forum to be ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’ which is embedded into the program at Davos this year and is great news. But this more equitable and sustainable vision of capitalism must be more than a theme, a process, or a matter of talk. It needs to reflect a seriousness of purpose and a commitment to an agenda that resonates not only in Davos but in the places where people believe that the Davos Men (and increasingly, Women) are ignoring their needs.
The answer to this disquiet is found in the following shared goals that broadly reflect the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the need for business leaders to recommit to these objectives is more compelling than ever. Entering Davos Week in 2020, there is clearly a new climate for business. To face it successfully, here is an agenda that we believe all the leaders who are making the journey should embrace:
More widely shared prosperity through a growing Ethical and Sustainable Marketplace: Markets are trusted less and less each year as basic social safety nets and services (education, healthcare, safe drinking water) are increasingly out of reach for the majority of the world’s population. GenZ are expressing rising support for what some consider a socialism attitude and there are many reasons for this, but it all boils down to growing concerns about extreme damage to the environment, what goes into our food chain and diminishing responsibility at the top. What we’re hearing, is that when a generation loses faith in basic economic fairness, no matter what statistics say, then change will be demanded. New social contracts are needed to ensure that societies progress together, and fairly.
Women’s empowerment: The past decade has seen huge strides being taken in closing the gender gap but businesses need to do more to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality. Leaders in Davos can create new pathways to opportunities by encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship for women, particularly GenZ, unleashing their potential and progress by providing easier access to finance and creating pathways to prosperity. More needs to be done to give voice to the voiceless women around the world for a more equitable world. We have been witnessing a wider, broader and clearly more diverse set of conversations taking place which has got to be a huge value addition in moving forward on developing partnerships, creating holistic marketplaces and encouraging investment in innovation driven by women.
Inclusive Technologies: This year we will see the focus of technology on building greater benefit for society. And whilst there’s a notion that this may slow the rollout of some ideas and business models, there are views (and we believe it also) that it will lead to more lasting innovation that society actually supports and needs– this is truly taking advantage of the opportunity and surely that must be good.
Focus on climate: It’s no surprise following the UN General Assembly last September, that businesses are being urged to mobilise to respond to the devastating and soon to be irreversible consequences of climate change and ensure that measures to protect biodiversity, reach forest floors and ocean beds. Nature is going to war with humans and we will lose that battle and our collective futures if nothing is done urgently. We need more champions like #Greta to shine a light on the issue and take on our global leaders.
Other social issues which are also important: Leaders at this year’s WEF are getting serious about how companies can support employees who are LGBTQ and those who suffer from mental ill-health, or who have faced sexual harassment at work. There’s also a new wave of thinking around how to end modern slavery and forced labour through innovative digital technology.
As we pointed out in our In Conversation with series, the road ahead this decade is likely to be marked by increased decentralisation of power and influence and that means the field is wide open for new players. So, whilst some of the most powerful people on this planet may well be looking at the year ahead in Davos and determining the next 12 months for the World Economy, the world away from the Mountain is increasingly influenced by a diverse array of actors living in a totally different universe.
What the world so urgently needs is action, with far more commitment than we have seen in the half-century since Davos launched. If we are to achieve human progress—and avoid exacerbating the turmoil that greets the 2020s—over the course of the coming decade, we have no choice.
This year’s discussions at Davos are expected to put even more pressure on companies and governments to reduce their environmental impact. If CEOs do not heed the warnings, companies face losing investor and customer support.