As the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 draws to a close we’ve been reflecting on some of the key themes discussed this year in Davos.
With the theme, History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies, this year’s event saw almost 2,500 leaders gather to tackle global issues and find solutions to the world's most urgent challenges including the ongoing global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, geo-economic shocks and climate change.
Here are a few of our top takeaways from the first in-person event in almost two years:
Business leaders can be overwhelmed with reactive challenges, so it’s been helpful to see this year that ESG and sustainability are still top of the agenda across the C-suite. And there is acknowledgement that food security and climate change are converging. Food shortages are made worse because of rising global temperatures, with examples even in recent weeks such as South Asia’s heat waves and floods, wildfires in the US West and extreme temperatures in the Middle East and southern Europe. These kinds of climate-related events affect food security, negatively impacting on crops and food exports. The continued threat of climate change is huge, and organizations are still mapping out their own net zero journeys, so it was good to see so much emphasis on it despite such geopolitical uncertainty.
An interesting area of conversation this year was increased emphasis on sustainability standards. Companies use an array of voluntary sustainability reporting frameworks. However, without the adoption of consistent standards, it is difficult for stakeholders to make the like-for-like comparisons that are critical for capital investments and understanding companies’ impact. There is continued concern that voluntary frameworks can be a barrier to transparency, enabling selective reporting and potential greenwashing. However, those with frameworks in place are at least demonstrating action over discussion towards net zero transition.
A panel on ‘making the metaverse’ was an exciting moment this year. Gaming apps and virtual reality headsets have created the gateway to a virtual environment that is now playing host to millions of people each day, with participation very heavily skewed towards children and young people. It is all happening fast, and we need clear codes of behaviour and ethics in place. The metaverse offers exciting opportunities for companies if it is safe. There will be different surfaces, objects, clothing and footwear on which companies can display their brands. It is the commercial opportunities that this affords that will support and build the metaverse we want. So, with the metaverse moving from escapism and gameism, to commercial utility, the potential for the metaverse is huge and a myriad of experts and voices will determine what it will look like.
The future of work is another really exciting theme that businesses need to continue to explore. This year, leaders at Davos discussed the benefits of a four-day work week, highlighting the merits of flexible work and the importance of this in encouraging greater productivity and crucially, in retaining talent. Conversations highlighted that often, employees are less concerned about where they work, but place a higher value on when and how much. In the United Arab Emirates, the government introduced a shorter work week earlier this year. Around 70% of employees reported working more efficiently, while there was a 55% reduction in absenteeism, according to the country’s minister for government development and the future.
For nearly 50 years the annual meeting has provided a unique environment for global leaders to reconnect, exchange insights and obtain fresh perspectives. There were certainly some exciting and interesting themes from Davos this year, signalling its continued relevance and importance as a milestone event in the calendar for leaders to reflect on, and advance, actionable change.