The 44th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum opened in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, with issues of sustainability high on the agenda.
Some 2,500 guests from nearly 100 countries, including over 30 heads of state or government, 300 public figures and 1,500 business leaders, will attend the four-day event to discuss how to “reshape” the world.
Specifically, they will debate issues including the opportunities presented by new technologies, how to make economic growth more equal and how humanity can adapt to rapidly rising global populations.
In an opening speech, the forum’s founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab urged attendees to keep “human values” in their thoughts throughout the discussions.
“Values are important because we want to live up to the World Economic Forum’s commitment to improving the state of the world”, he said.
Climate change and environmental sustainability will also be high on the list of priorities. One day will be dedicated to addressing the rising economic costs of climate change.
“There has been a failure of government to address these solutions. If there is an alliance of companies that can bite off pieces of the puzzle, it might help”, Dominic Waughray, head of environmental initiatives for the forum, told the New York Times.
For the first time, the forum has also placed extreme weather events on its list of the biggest global risks for the year.
“If you look at what’s happening, these events are getting worse, and they’re having more devastating consequences”, Jennifer Blanke chief economist and senior director of the World Economic Forum, said at a press conference.
John Drzik, chairman of the Global Risk Centre at Marsh & McLennan Companies, added that the issue had risen to prominence because urbanising populations are growing in disaster prone areas, meaning the value of affected properties is increasing.
The B Team, a not-for-profit initiative lobbying businesses to act as a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit, has urged leaders to use the Davos summit get behind UN climate and sustainability goals.
“Our hopes for a new era of peace, shared opportunity and ever-increasing interdependence may be at risk, but realising them is not beyond human capability. The strengths of business – enterprise, innovation, and technological progress – could be instrumental”, they write in an article for the Guardian.
“This version of the future – not that of a blighted planet – is fundamentally in the interests of business. Executives must rise above narrow sectoral and short-term interests, and work with governments to create a new framework of incentives and sanctions, rewarding investment in people and planet.”