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Davos Digest 2023 – Issue Two

January 17, 2023
Mountain view of Switzerland

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

Davos got underway on Monday and the opening ceremony was sprinkled with a handful of stardust. The 28th Annual Crystal Awards honoured actors Idris and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, artist and activist Maya Lin, and soprano Renée Flemin for their environmental and humanitarian work. The Elbas asked for more investment, rather than aid, for the world’s poorest countries. 

Meanwhile former Bank of England governor MarkCarney believes philanthropy can help tackle climate change. As co-chair of the global Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, he called for “layers of capital to catalyse the investment that needs to happen to prevent the wanton destruction of our ecosystem”. 

On a less sombre note, premier football league team Manchester United has unveiled a rather glamorous lounge at Davos but insisted it was purely to entertain clients and partners, rather than act as a shop front to lure a billionaire investor with spare cash… 

That was just a snapshot of the start of this week’s events. Find out much more below in today’s Davos Digest and check back here for updates throughout the week. 


Is the hottest ticket in Davos not to have one at all? 

The G7 staying off their G6: The guest list for this year’s WEF Annual Meeting is as notable for who’s not on it, as who is. Six of the G7 leaders, including Xi Jinping, Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak, have opted to stay away from the slopes this year, conscious to avoid being seen rubbing shoulders with immaculately tailored business leaders and so-called ‘internationalists’ at a time when there are so many domestic fires to fight. 

No-List of A-Listers: But non-committal politicians needn’t worry about being snapped looking awkward and – let’s be real – wanting in the looks department next to Leonardo DiCaprio or Angelina Jolie. As celebrity culture evolves from idolising exclusivity, to worshipping authenticity and ‘realness’, swathes of image-conscious A-listers are also eschewing any official speaking events at the summit, fearful of looking out of touch (or out of their depth). Maybe politics really is show business for normal people. 

Looking ahead: Domestic reputations notwithstanding, questions will be asked whether shirking one of the biggest multilateral meeting of minds at such a crucial juncture in global affairs and for the global economy is particularly sensible. With fewer potential reputational ramifications from attending, business leaders look to have acknowledged this need for cooperation and are going to what is the first proper Annual Meeting since COVID-19 in their droves. Record numbers, in fact. The question is whether their consumers and other stakeholders will see CEOs attending a highfalutin champagne-fuelled summit as the best setting to solve these issues. 


Diary of a CEO: reinvent, invest and collaborate 

Businesses must reinvent or risk failing: Let’s face it, for the past several years resilience has increasingly felt like a buzzword. Yet it remains a crucial driving force for successful business, according to some of the world’s top CEOs. PwC’s Global CEO Survey highlighted that of the 4,410 CEOs polled, 40% said they did not see their own companies as viable in 10 years if they stay on their current path. What is PwC suggesting? We must continue to reinvent our businesses or risk losing it all.  

Investing in strategic decision making: Commenting on Accenture’s “Accelerating Europe’s path to reinvention” report Jean Marc Ollagnier, European Chief Executive of Accenture, said there was a need for European companies, in particular, to improve technology and “reinvent their business.” Nearly six in 10 CEOs said they did not invest enough time asking strategic questions, such as enquiring about technological capabilities, raising staff skill levels, building stronger supply chains and decarbonising their operations.  

The future is collaboration: During the Davos Global Collaboration Village press conference where executives from the Forum spoke with Julie Sweet, Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Accenture and Brad Smith, Vice-Chair and President, Microsoft, Mr. Smith was asked about the future of business. He’s convinced the world of work is about collaboration. For decades, we have been on a path toward collaborating with new technologies. Today he urged companies to facilitate collaboration from the bottom up. 

Looking ahead: Corporates still have much to discuss when it comes to creating opportunities, technological advancements, and the future of work. Tomorrow we’ll hear from WEF’s Jobs Consortium, a coalition of CEOs, government ministers and other leaders with a common vision for a better future of work for all. Stay tuned for the top trends shaping the world of work – and how CEOs are addressing them!  


Tomorrow’s workforce and a call to invest in women’s health 

Will robots steal my job? Not exactly – you may just need to ‘reskill,’ according to Merck CEO Belen Garijo who spoke on a panel on the future of work this morning. She explored how public and private sectors can transform the workforce to provide better skills, jobs and education over the next 10 years as the role of technology looms ever larger. Technology is already a huge part of Merck’s upskilling and training programmes and will continue to be key to balancing capabilities and needs in the healthcare and life science industries.

The future is female: With women’s needs all too often an afterthought in healthcare, investment in women’s health urgently needs to be prioritised, according to a panel of health leaders including the CEO of Organon and the Minister of Women and Child Development for India. With the pandemic acting as a huge blow to gender equality, both private and public organisations must come together to bring women’s health back to the top of the agenda. This includes pushing for universal healthcare, stronger reproductive rights and highlighting the commercial value of investment in women’s health.  

Looking ahead: Plenty more to come tomorrow, when we’ll be kicking off with a much needed debrief on the state of the pandemic. Industry leaders will also be discussing various health equity topics, including the impact of climate change on both physical and mental health and building resilient health systems, as well as what’s next in the biotech revolution.


Calls for Collaboration: multilateralism tested on Ukraine, Climate and China’s reopening 

The collapse of the world as we know it? In line with this year’s theme, co-operation, or a lack thereof, dominated the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska’s speech this morning as she accused delegates of not using their influence, or using it “in a way that divides even more”. She argued that unless countries work together, we face the collapse of the world as we know it and that “this war can go further and make the crisis larger, unless the aggressor loses”. This year’s World Economic Forum offers a new chance to drum up the international support that Ukraine has been seeking and France, the UK, the US and other nations are now vowing to send increasingly powerful weapons such as tanks and armoured combat vehicles to help the cause.  

The cost of climate change: “Climate needs a global approach but a fair approach” was Ursula Von der Leyen’s message when she took to the stage today as she outlined a detailed plan for a clean tech future in Europe. It had been expected that the President of the European Commission would launch a more stinging attack on the US but instead, she made it clear that parts of the recent Inflation Reduction Act have caused concern in Europe but insisted they will work together with their “United States friends” to find solutions.   

Global China: China’s Vice Premier, Liu He, set out that China is now looking to open up on two fronts during a special address he gave this morning. As it recovers from its ongoing COVID situation, foreign visitors are now being encouraged to visit the country as long as they present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before entering. Elsewhere he also set out that China continues to oppose unilateralism and is eager to work with other countries to enhance global cooperation and appropriately respond to global issues such as climate change.   

Looking ahead: Tomorrow, the delegates will hear a special address from both Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, and Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN. This year marks the second consecutive Davos summit without a Russian presence, with their traditional embassy now being used by delegates from India. That said, discourse about the ongoing conflict looks set to continue into the second day and indeed, the remainder of the week.   


Traditional tech pressed about layoffs, while crypto leaders call for more clarity 

Tech CEOs seen practicing their poker faces: As some reports suggest that more than 24,000 employees were laid off by tech companies in the first 15 days of 2023, CEOs of large tech companies attending WEF attempt to present a reassuring face amidst talks of a global recession. Alex Karp, CEO of software company Palantir Technologies, expects to hire hundreds of people in 2023, in line with previous years. 

Regulation is SO in at Davos: The issue of creating a new statutory definition for digital assets was raised by some business leaders, including Jeremy Allaire, CEO of cryptocurrency issuer Circle, at a forum organised by Reuters at WEF. The European Union is leading the way with the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) rules expected to come into effect in 2024. At Davos, crypto leaders are looking at major markets, such as the US, to set up a plan and provide more clarity for the sector. 

Looking ahead: A focus from Chuck Robbins, CEO of Cisco, on how decision makers can respond to the confluence of rising cyberattacks and a polarised geopolitical landscape. ChatGPT and generative AI are also top of mind at WEF, with speakers ranging from Hiroaki Kitano, CTO of Sony, to the artist Refik Anadol discussing what the implications are of this technological progress for their industries. 

Join us for more insights from the summit in tomorrow’s Davos Digest.