Davos

Steve Sedgwick, Anchor of CNBC moderating the panel at Davos.
Steve Sedgwick, Anchor of CNBC moderating the panel at Davos.

The Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris in December was an unambiguous success, this was the narrative of the “New Climate for Doing Business” panel discussion at the 2016 World Economic Forum of Davos. The panel – made up of representatives from the UN, industry and politics reflected the fact that there is now a global awareness and furthermore a global agreement to radically change our behaviour and reduce our carbon footprint on the earth.

“Success” has been achieved on committing to this mission, however, how this success materialises depends on the action from here on.

One of the main sticking points of COP 21 was the reduction of carbon emissions by every country. Carbon is extremely harmful to the environment but embedded in everything that we do, in all of our processes and so unsurprisingly, it is industries that emit the greatest concentration into our atmosphere.

This is why the support of industry will be so crucial to the success story. Businesses from primary to manufacturing, right up to the services sector are realizing that being more environmentally conscious will attract consumers in the short term and pay dividends in the longer term.

Carl Douglas McMilllon, CEO and President of Walmart
Carl Douglas McMilllon, CEO and President of Walmart.

Walmart Inc, the multi-million dollar department store is leading the charge. During the panel discussion, their CEO Douglas McMillon said that “Walmart want to eventually be powered by renewables and reach its 0% waste target.” This is a huge statement and, whether they reach this target or not, actively pursuing these goals will not only reduce their negative impact on the environment but also send a message to America Inc of what they need to prioritize.

There has been a lot of debate about where fossil fuel companies lie in this. CNBC Anchor Steve Sedgewick, chair of the panel alluded to the fact that they have a major stake because they pay big tax bills to Governments on the earnings that they make from selling oil. However, if a profit driven giant with such a global influence like Walmart realises that the future of returns are green, then there is every chance that other companies will follow suit.

Developing countries were also central to the discussion. Opinion is divided but UN Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres made the point that yes these countries are not as resourced as their developed neighbours but they hold the greatest opportunities on account of their increasing connectivity and labor force. Alluding to notions of winners and losers she said that “this is not a partisan politics debate, it is win-win-win for individuals, industries and entire societies.”

I would have to agree and it’s hard not to be optimistic about the potential of what can be achieved now that we have collective commitment to the cause by every stakeholder.

We have international agreement, national plans of action, support of industry and civil society. It won’t be a clear road and there will be hurdles, but dealing with dilemmas is natural to humankind. The better you are reconciled to deal with them, the more likely you are to overcome and I think we are in a pretty good place to get over any obstacles we meet on the path.

Written by Dearbhla Gavin

Finland Finance Minister Alexander Stubbs
Finland Finance Minister Alexander Stubbs

The 46th World Economic Forum kicked off in sub zero temperatures outdoors and equally freezing atmosphere indoors among the delegates as they woke up to news of more turmoil in the stock markets, which set the agenda for quite a pessimistic day all round. On that same note, China managed to infiltrate almost every discussion and opinions were divided as to what extent a stalled economy in the Middle Kingdom would contaminate the rest of the world.

On the optimistic side and in response to the holders of the view that the overreacting markets would ask for subtle policy changes to stabilize, Stephen A Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, supported the idea that China with its huge population will continue to both produce and consume, which implies that supply and demand will be maintained and the markets will again reach equilibrium.

Away from the stock markets and onto the environment, I was interested to hear the views of UN Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, one month after COP 21 in Paris that Horyou covered. Unsurprisingly, Christina stated that getting everyone to agree was the easy part but that what the world is in need for clear goals and even clearer strategy on how to reach them.

Alluding to the importance of citizen participation and ‘solidarity’, one of Horyou’s key values, she said that ‘everyone on the planet needs to rethink how they live their lives; and that goes for big business as well as individual consumers’.

On the subject of geopolitics, it struck me that the entire concept of Davos could well be challenged this year. Rumors of excessive parties and elitism notwithstanding, it has always been a platform where the powerful can gather calmly and on common ground to make decisions. However, this year things look different as the world had never been more split over our priorities and our problems, as well as who or what to blame and, most importantly, the proposed solutions.

There are so many powers coming to Davos with different ideologies regarding the various geopolitical conflicts. When we are supposed to be at a new frontier of global growth and development, are we to see phantoms of times past reemerging? Alexander Stubbs, the Swedish Prime Minister spoke of global stability in the wake of critical shifts. However and thankfully, for all of the worry, there was a lot of reason to be hopeful and believe in Davos.

Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg
Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg

Musician Will I Am and Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg both spoke sincerely on the opportunity that lies in connectivity. On a mission to utilise technology for another ‘education’, yet another Horyou key value,Will I Am believes that a bright future lies in giving kids the opportunity to explore the STEM subjects and in using technology as an aid to learning. Sandberg, meanwhile, passionately alluded to experiences of people in developing countries whose lives were transformed when they were given access to the Internet and how this gave them a stake in society they never even dreamed to have.

There was also a lot of positive vibes from this year’s upbeat Young Global Leaders who were driving conversations on renewable energies, sustainability and the future of science. And a key point I took away from their discussions is that good people doing good need to know each other; they need to connect and work together to make an even bigger impact on society.

So, the night falls leaving in the air a mixture of caution, uncertainty, hope and fear; opinions are divided but the good news is they are voiced. We definitely leave curious.

We look forward to seeing how the rest of the week will unfold.

By Dearbhla Gavin

WorldEconomicForum_1

The 46th World Economic Forum kicks off at altitude in Davos this week. With only the most powerful on stage and the rest of the world wondering whether it is just a networking event for the 1%, the truth is that there has been no better time for the WEF and its platform in a world in vital need for peace, dialogue and solutions to critical economic, social, environmental and technological issues.

Ahead of the main event, The World Economic Forum released a list of what it has found to be the greatest risks to the stability of the world on all the above accounts in the next five years. Although not included in the main agenda, the list’s findings are likely to be central to most discussions over the next few days.

worldeforum_inforgraphic

The top five outlines risks are large-scale involuntary migration mostly from regions at war or suffering severe unrest, extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaption, interstate conflict and natural catastrophes. It is worth noting that, for the first time in history, three out of the five risks are related to the environment. Also, one of the main things that unfolded during the environmental crises of the last few years is the role that governance plays in both cause and solution.

The impact of government policy, business strategy and citizen action on the environment is slowly being understood. It is a virtue of our increasingly connected world where nothing can now be treated in isolation, which reinforces the importance of the WEF as a place to communicate as one.

60 million people, the size of the UK population, have been displaced as a result of climate change. When one loses everything, there is an erosion of trust between ruler and ruled, a situations which threatens to undermine the entire social fabric of a society.

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As these environmental crises and social tensions intensify, the inevitable related policy changes is bound to impact business profit margins which, in turn, can put a blanket drag on the economic activity with increased unemployment that feed social tensions. Which is why the environment, business, society and security will be addressed jointly. it is hoped that through collective discussion among all stakeholders, the much needed consensus can be reached and mitigation of these risks be put into place.

The World Economic Forum refers to this as the ‘resilience imperative. It emphasizes the absolute necessity of cross industry collaboration to contain the risks in the coming year.

In a nutshell, the cooperation of every nation in adapting the terms of the COP21 agreement will be necessary to contain climate change. Also on the agenda, the slowing growth of China will be closely followed. Why? Because it is one of the largest consumers of goods and services and because it is a country that so many economies rely on for trade. What happens in China will reverberate across the world. Another consequence of global connectedness.

Those are the most likely challenges we will face. We will keep a close eye on the World Economic Forum’s proceedings this week hoping for some solutions.

By Dearbhla Gavin

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