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Davos Digest 2023 – Issue Four

January 19, 2023
Mountain view of Switzerland

Welcome to Issue Four of FleishmanHillard’s Davos Digest 2023. 

Our latest must-read instalment is kicking off with a decidedly green agenda and an attack on the conference’s elite crowd.  

Greta Thunberg created more headlines on Thursday when she and fellow activists confronted the man in charge of regulating global energy at a Fridays For Future debate. Thunberg argued it’s “absurd” to be listening to the people who are the main perpetrators of the climate crisis. To be confirmed on whether she grabbed popcorn for Oliver Stone’s new movie promoting nuclear power, which played to a packed audience at Davos. 

But it’s not only the future of planet Earth that’s at stake. The European Space Agency was pushing a ‘zero debris’ policy that would mandate companies and governments to remove any space junk launched from Earth and safeguard astronauts and spacecraft. Time will tell if action is taken now or a long time ahead in a galaxy far, far away. 

In other news, there is a mountain-sized question mark over the future of Mr Davos himself, Klaus Schwab, who has run the forum for over half a century. He’s been accused by former and current WEF employees of surrounding himself with “nobodies” and being a “law unto himself.” Former UK prime minister Tony Blair is one of the leading figures being looked at as his eventual successor. Was he really at Davos to do a recce? 

Check out the latest from our avid WEF watchers in today’s Davos Digest and be sure to return here for global and on-the-ground insights coming up soon. 


Davos does DE&I well 

Looking beyond the rainbow: Continuing its commitment to DE&I, WEF’s Partnership for Global LGBTQI+ Equality launched ‘Pride on the Promenade’, a rainbow light display across the Davos Promenade. Beyond the multi-coloured display of hope, recent law changes and expansion of rights across several countries were discussed at the Advancing LGBTQI+ Rights panel, and changes in the corporate world at the GLAAD panel.  

Women of WEF: Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin created another viral moment this week as she deflected questions about her “role as a very young woman in this very important job.” Whilst remarkable, this pithy moment of table-turning vindication for women somewhat overshadowed actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi as she spoke out against the continued oppression of women in Iran. 

Looking ahead: Remarkable optimism persists at this week’s DE&I conversations despite political turmoil and the ongoing global backdrop of inequality. Conversations are refocusing on pragmatic next steps and diverse paths towards equitable solutions in the face of stalling efforts around equality. With some of the most productive discussions going on, it’s no wonder Politico called the Equality Lounge on the Promenade “one of the best places to be this week.”  


What have the world’s entrepreneurs been up to?  

Scaling solutions towards a sustainable future: During the Davos press conference on Trailblazing Entrepreneurs Tackling the World’s Biggest Problems, Joe Ucuzoglu, Global CEO of Deloitte, explained that if we are going to make headway, we need to tap into entrepreneurial spirit across all areas of the globe. Ucuzoglu said scaling innovative start-ups, which will accelerate progress towards our global sustainability goals, is our path to cities of the future.  

Join the ‘eco-preneur’ revolution: During a press conference, Suzanne DiBianca, Chief Impact Officer at Salesforce, echoed the Deloitte CEO’s remarks, expressing how incredible it is to see innovation developing at a global scale. The ‘eco-preneur’ revolution, as she calls it, is a big part of Salesforce’s work. Climate-minded entrepreneurs have helped the company use a carbon intelligence platform, like Moody’s credit ratings system, but for carbon projects using satellite technology. DiBianca argued we need to join the effort led by climate-minded entrepreneurs. 

Social entrepreneurs educating our youth: Okay, but let’s get specific. How are entrepreneurs really tackling the world’s biggest problems? Lindiwe Matlali, CEO of Africa Teen Geeks, explained how this social enterprise teaches children and unemployed youth how to code, exposes them to computer science and inspires a future generation of technology entrepreneurs and innovators. Research suggests there are millions of social entrepreneurs working in Africa, and social enterprises are estimated to directly create between 28 and 41 million jobs. Matlali reaffirmed that investment in young people is the long-term way to go.  

Looking ahead: What’s next for our corporates on the final day of Davos? We’re talking start-ups. geopolitical tensions, inflation and supply disruptions impacting start-ups worldwide are resulting in a lack of free-flowing capital. What’s the new formula for calculating the valuation of a start-up? We’ll soon find out. 


Future-proofing the health industry and care economy 

CEOs on change: Last night saw the CEOs of healthcare heavyweights Philips, Novartis and Merck gather to discuss future-proofing the health and life sciences industry. The consensus? Harnessing AI and technology, regulatory consistency and focusing on mental health are key to driving innovation and adapting to a turbulent era. 

Mind the trust gap: More than half of patients have had experiences that damaged their trust in their healthcare provider, according to a survey by Sanofi. Figures are significantly higher for minority groups and those with intersectional identities. The findings have prompted Sanofi to launch its A Million Conversations initiative. The company is pledging €50 million over the next decade to increase trust between underrepresented communities and healthcare stakeholders, conduct research and run events to promote dialogue and ultimately improve health outcomes. 

Caregivers in crisis: A shifting global demographic means ever-increasing pressure on social infrastructure. There’s a call for significant investment in elderly and child care, to the tune of trillions, in order to maintain societal health over the next few decades, according to a panel of business leaders and politicians. The issue is especially crucial for women, who often bear both the physical and mental burden of care work. 

Looking ahead: Tune in on day five for a panel on taking new approaches to medicine as life expectancies rise, as well as a discussion on the value of interdisciplinary collaboration for advancing scientific research. 


UK on the global stage  

Boris at breakfast: This morning, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson spoke at the Davos breakfast briefing on Ukraine after receiving an honorary “Citizen of Kyiv” medal from Mayor Vitali Klitschko last night. He insisted Putin will not use nuclear weapons as it would create economic paralysis, comparing the Russian leader to “the fat boy in Dickens who wants to make our flesh creep.” Johnson also urged delegates they need to give “Volodymyr Zelensky the tools he needs to finish the job.” This mirrors the message Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska both pushed during their respective appearances at Davos – that Ukraine urgently needs support from its global allies.   

Down the slippery slope of protectionism: Despite Rishi Sunak not being present at this year’s Davos, the UK government has been represented and on Thursday morning it was current Business Secretary Grant Shapps’ turn. Speaking on a panel, he expressed concerns about the U.S.’s Inflation Reduction Act, saying “the IRA, at the edges, is dangerous because it could lead to a slide towards protectionism.” However, Shapps later faced some debate when IEA chief Fatih Birol said at a CNBC panel that the IRA is a “very transformative move,” and hopes other countries will respond to help meet clean energy goals.   

Starmer’s Britain will be open for business: The leader of the Labour Party also spoke at Davos this afternoon during the ‘Repowering the World’ panel. He is the first Labour leader to attend the meeting since Ed Miliband and used his appearance to discuss how he would lead the UK through the current global crises. He said the country needs a strategy for renewables that would tackle high bills and create energy security. He also took the opportunity for some political point scoring, stating the “absence of the UK” has been pressed on him during his time in Davos and arguing that his presence there is a statement of the international role that Britain will play if there is a change of government.   

Looking ahead: There have been three major topics of discussion at this year’s Davos, topics that have also dominated political discussions for some time. We have seen climate change, the war in Ukraine and global economic crises top the agenda and it’s unlikely this will change much over the coming months. Davos has highlighted many reasons to be optimistic about the future, as well as areas where there needs to be a global effort for improvement.   


Challenging times for tech 

Tough days ahead at Microsoft: At Davos, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, who’s jumped from panels to interviews in the Swiss Alps, announced Microsoft would cut 10,000 jobs and take a $1.2 billion charge to earnings. From another corner of the village, Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he was not currently planning any company-wide layoffs

Cloudy with a chance of cyber storm: In the wake of systemic geopolitical shifts in 2022, this year’s WEF dedicated a special place to cybersecurity. On day three, a panel including INTERPOL Secretary-General Jürgen Stock, and Palo Alto’s CEO Nikesh Arora predicted an expansion of the threat landscape. Davos might be missing snow this year, but the cyber storm is gathering. 

Looking ahead: Tech has had a rough start to the year, of which Davos is just an illustration. The industry is trimming down tens of thousands of employees as former cash cows, such as cloud computing, are taking a hit from a maturing market and squeezed budgets. On the other hand, tech giants are shifting towards niche growth drivers, such as AI and cybersecurity, which have been the shining stars of this year’s WEF.  

Don’t miss out on more global insights from the Swiss slopes in the next Davos Digest.