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Building Back Through Trust & Conscience

by Samiran Ghosh

The WEF21 Agenda Is Laudable but Seems Possibly Impractical

The world at large has spent much of the past year struggling to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. While we have not yet defeated COVID-19, now with the vaccine, at last, there is some hope. 2021 is a year of change. Though we have all started working towards our rejigged futures again, the fact is that the new normal is different, and there is no going back to the conditions that reigned before 2020.

The main focus of the World Economic Forum (WEF) held virtually for the first time was the COVID-19 pandemic. World leaders and corporate gurus discussed the need for global collaboration and the importance of rebuilding trust to make bold choices to face crucial economic, social, environmental, and technological challenges.

Day 1: Fairer economies and healthy futures

World leaders spoke about restoring economic growth and responding to the Covid-19 crisis for a healthy future for all. While the Covid-19 pandemic is a unique health crisis, it is vital to ensure that people worldwide are vaccinated. It is fundamental for economies and societies to be well equipped to face future health and economic challenges. The one good thing is that the pandemic has fast-tracked the tools required for global health coverage, such as telemedicine, and increased use of data and analytics. Now only if the health systems don’t return to their previous ways post the pandemic.

Day 2: Implementing stakeholder capitalism

The pandemic has revealed that corporates that focus on stakeholder capitalism function much better than others, as they invest in the company’s long-term feasibility. Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, said, “We are moving from short-term shareholder profit maximization to a world characterized by stakeholder responsibility.” But now we need to walk the talk. The world needs to see that a company is working according to social, environmental, and governance standards. Gaining everyone’s trust is most important.

Day 3: How to save the planet

We have only ten years to achieve a net-zero and nature-positive economy. We have to work fast. The ongoing pandemic has taught us that we can all work together when pushed into a corner and find a solution.
During discussions, John F Kerry indicated that even though America re-joining the Paris agreement was an important step to fight the climate crisis, “the Paris agreement is not enough.” A lot more still needs to be done.
The business sector needs to do its bit for reducing the carbon footprint. Employees, as well as customers, are now becoming aware of their environmental responsibilities. If corporate leaders and companies do not incorporate sustainable solutions, it will have a bearing on their businesses.

Day 4: Tech for good

Technology is everywhere. In fact, during the pandemic, technology has been a lifeline for both people and businesses. Having seen what technology can do, there is now a necessity to change business models to enhance productivity and create new value for all concerned – companies, society, and the environment. While technology such as 3D printing has brought about significant changes in the pharma industry, AI and robotics have been revolutionary. Thanks to digitalization, a large population has managed to work remotely or from home.

Day 5: Society and the future of work

It is essential that we close the skill gaps, make workplaces more inclusive, and focus on workers’ health. The good thing is that the pandemic has led to the digitization of workplaces; work-from-home, and virtual education have become a reality. However, these are not beneficial for those without a computer or internet access. As per the Future of Jobs report 2020, job creation is lagging behind job destruction, which will impact the disadvantaged strata of society the most.

The Davos Agenda’s dominant theme was “business with a conscience” and why that is good and profitable for the long-term viability of the enterprise and society. It was heartening to see the WEF use their platform to start a dialogue that hopefully will reset our post-pandemic thinking, focusing on “building back better.” Leader after Leader spoke about the importance of climate action, reducing inequality, and inclusive growth. One can only hope that these are taken forward by all concerned, through concrete steps based on a defined timeline.

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