The WEF's first meeting in 1971 was established to further an idea put forward by Professor Schwab that business should serve all stakeholders -– customers, employees, communities, as well as shareholders.
A clarion call for ensuring “a cohesive and sustainable world” will be at the centrestage, when more than 3,000 global leaders, including prime ministers, presidents and top CEOs, come together for the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Swiss Alpine town of Davos next January. The milestone annual meeting of Geneva-based WEF, which describes itself as an international organisation for public-private cooperation, is also expected to see a big participation by Indian leaders, including ministers, industrialists and civil society members.
While the names of the participants would be known by next month, the WEF announced on Thursday that the theme of its 50th Davos summit would be “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”. Besides, this annual meeting, scheduled for January 21-24, 2020, would also see release of a universal ‘ESG scorecard’ by the WEF’s International Business Council, which is currently chaired by Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. The scorecard would list companies on the basis of environmental, social and governance parameters.
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Over years, the Davos meeting has seen presence of a large number of presidents, prime ministers and other global leaders, while those having been there in recent years include India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump. The organisers said there is a huge interest about the event as it would be the 50th Annual Meeting. Asked specifically about interest from India, a WEF spokesperson said, “Indian business leaders always make up one of the largest contingents from the private sector and we expect this to continue”. Typically, more than 100 Indian CEOs attend the WEF meeting in the Swiss ski resort town every year.
The WEF said the 50th meeting will focus on the Forum’s founding principle -– Stakeholder Capitalism -– and define ways in which companies can update their purpose and key performance indicators in this new era. “It will also champion metrics governments and international organisations can use to track and improve the global progress on climate change and meaningful economic growth,” it said. The WEF said the meeting would aim to give a concrete meaning to “stakeholder capitalism”, assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Accord and the Sustainable Development Goals, and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance. “People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them, and our efforts to keep global warming limited to 1.5°C are falling dangerously short,” WEF’s Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said. “With the world at such critical crossroads, this year we must develop a ‘Davos Manifesto 2020’ to reimagine the purpose and scorecards for companies and governments. It is what the WEF was founded for 50 years ago, and it is what we want to contribute to for the next 50 years,” he said.
The WEF’s first meeting in 1971 was established to further an idea put forward by Professor Schwab that business should serve all stakeholders -– customers, employees, communities, as well as shareholders. It was reaffirmed in 1973 in the ‘Davos Manifesto’, a document that has shaped the work of the Forum ever since.
The WEF further said the 2020 meeting will be among the most sustainable international summits ever held. Initiatives put in place to achieve this goal include using locally-sourced food suppliers, introducing alternative sources of protein to reduce meat consumption, sourcing 100 per cent renewable electricity, and reducing or eliminating the use of materials that cannot easily be recycled or re-used, such as carpets and introducing more electric vehicles.
The WEF said its Davos meeting has already been made fully carbon-neutral through reducing, calculating and offsetting event-related emissions. Elaborating further, a WEF spokesperson said the big message at the 2020 summit would be renewing stakeholder capitalism. “This year represents a real tipping point when it has became obvious that ‘business as usual’ capitalism is no longer fit for the purpose. “We need more investment in skills and green growth to lift productivity, and hence the business performance. There need not be a trade-off between long-term growth through sustainability and inclusiveness and short-term economic performance,” the spokesperson added.
The WEF said the programme for the 2020 meeting will prioritize six key areas — ecology, economy, technology, society, geopolitics and industry. The ecology segment would focus on how to mobilise business to respond to the risks of climate change and ensure that measures to protect biodiversity reach forest floors and ocean beds. The economy focus would be on how to remove the long-term debt burden and keep the economy working at a pace that allows higher inclusion, while techology segment would focus on how to create a global consensus on deployment of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and avoid a ‘technology war’.
The ‘society’ segment would focus on how to to reskill and upskill a billion people in the next decade, while the geopolitics segment would talk about how the ‘spirit of Davos’ can create bridges to resolve conflicts in global hotspots. It will also host informal meetings to set kickstart conciliation. The industry-related sessions would focus on how to help business create the models necessary to drive enterprise in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how to navigate an enterprise in a world exposed to political tensions and driven by exponential technological change as well as increasing expectations from all stakeholders.