Article originally published by Forbes on June 6
The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) was once again held in Davos, Switzerland. But this was a meeting unlike any other; the differences ran much deeper than the weather and the significantly reduced participation at this “Spring Davos”. Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, growing anxiety about a global recession and lingering concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, there was certainly an undercurrent of pessimism to this year’s meeting. But there were plenty of silver linings, if you looked hard enough...
A soft landing instead of a full blow recession?
While the earnings surprises at Walmart and Target further fed concerns about an impending recession, strong consumer spending on travel and services as evidenced by airline revenue growth and Ulta’s strong profits suggests that the story may be more nuanced. Perhaps more importantly, it might suggest a pivot in spending from goods back towards services and experiences. This might in turn suggest that inflationary pressures could abate in the near future.
Might deglobalization be overplayed?
Despite the many prognostications about the end of globalization, I heard a more nuanced narrative from attendees. While a number of large organizations continue to reorder their supply chains to reduce the risks from various geopolitical “friction points”, many are bringing a difference lens to their ongoing pursuit of globalization. While past efforts might have been primarily focused on increasing efficiency, resilience and agility seem to be primary considerations for this next phase of globalization.
Is this the moment that climate and the workforce finally get the attention they deserve?
The January 2020 WEF Annual Meeting was characterized by a strong focus on climate and the future of work, underpinned by the Davos Manifesto of 2020. For climate, the WEF outlined an ambitious goal of growing, restoring and conserving 1 trillion trees over the next 10 years and for the future of work, the WEF took on an equally ambitious goal of providing better work, education and skills to 1 billion people by 2030. While that meeting triggered numerous discussions and initiatives focused on these two goals, we saw real commitment and progress this year. Of the many outstanding efforts, two unique initiatives are worth calling out; the UNHCR’s Refugee Environmental Protection Fund looks to achieve the dual goal of protecting refugees while addressing the climate challenge by investing in impactful reforestation and clean cooking programs and the WEF’s Good Work Alliance looks to create a more healthy, resilient and equitable future of work with organizational commitments to the Good Work Framework .
Many deride the Annual Meeting of the WEF as merely a party for the rich and influential but my many years of both working with the WEF and seeing this event up close leave me with a different perspective. Few organizations have the convening power of the WEF. Few can mobilize all the critical stakeholders needed to solve the thorniest problems this planet faces like the WEF. Despite the circumstances surrounding a very different Annual Meeting, Davos continues to play a pivotal role for all our futures.