Climate Change Challenges Dominated Davos 2020

Climate Change Challenges Dominated Davos 2020

Ben Pring
Ben Pring,

World leaders are now returning back home after visiting the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF). This year, the urgency of climate change dominated discussions as participants gathered to address the most pressing issues on the global agenda. Cognizant’s Ben Pring was there, and these are some of his reflections.

The annual meeting of the WEF plays an influential role in shaping the global discussion about the state of business, socioeconomics and the broader culture. Among the 828 public speakers and 221 webcast sessions, some main trends were spotted: 

  • WEF Davos hardly feels like a business event anymore. It’s a gathering of people who work (primarily) in businesses talking about how to deal with broad societal issues.
  • Climate-related risks now overshadow all other risks – in particular economic risks – undermining cohesive action and creating blind spots, according to Global Risks Report 2020 that was released during Davos. This year, the Davos “Fringe” agenda of the last few years – green, inclusive, stakeholders over shareholders, etc. – really made it inside the velvet rope of the “Official” WEF Davos event (consequently, “climate change”, “positive” and “impact” have been the trending WEF terms on Twitter). Beforehand, all companies coming to Davos were also asked to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier.
  • Diversity and inclusion have kicked in big time – more women and minorities on panels. “Manels” are a thing of the past. (Check out our eBook about Inclusion and Diversity in Tech)
  • Even if Greta Thunberg and her climate messages didn’t cause quite as much stir as previous year, it’s obvious that white, middle-aged males have lost control of the global narrative – the narrative that “Davos Man” has shaped for the last 50 years. The only thing they have left is lots of money.
  • However, during Davos nobody really talks about money, or about how to save money, anymore. At least not on the record. And neither does anybody talk about the  “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” anymore. Instead, tech regulation is the talk of the town. Cognizant’s very own @Malcolm M_Frank spoke at the @nytimes #nydebate on whether or not #bigtech can regulate itself.

To summarize the meeting’s key takeaway: no longer can every business and economic decision be oriented toward simply serving the interests of shareholders. A broader range of stakeholders – employees, suppliers, the communities in which a business operates, the environment, the future even – must be considered as equally important as the capital owners of an organization. From now on, it’s really Mr. Gekko, Meet Ms. Thunberg (unsurprisingly, both US President Donald Trump and Greta Thunberg were the most mentioned people at Davos in news and social media).

For more information about Cognizant’s participation, with sessions like "Reimaging Leadership in the Digital Age" and "Inclusion in the Workplace", please visit our WEF page. Also check out Cognizant's Nordic Tech for Good initiative.

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