There is a desire for change among global elites, but not as far as the Sens. Sanders (I-Vt.) And Warren (D-Mass.) Want to go.
This year’s World Economic Forum agenda is dominated by discussions on how to address climate change and inequality. The leaders of the big corporations are eager to show that they are doing something about the biggest problems in the world and do not need the radical changes in the policies that Sanders and Warren are proposing.
“Companies are really worried about the possibility that a far-left administration will come to power that imposes very different ways of operating,” said Colin Mayer, professor of management studies at the University of Oxford and a forum assistant.
Few business leaders here want to openly declare which candidate they support in the US presidential elections. UU. By 2020, but there is a widespread belief that populism and climate activism will not disappear, regardless of who wins the presidency.
“Young people have turned sharply to the left,” wrote Greg Valliere, chief US policy strategist at AGF Investments, in a recent note to clients summarizing the change in opinion.
In addition to President Trump, the assistant who generated the most stir in this year’s World Economic Forum is Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish climate activist. Last year, Thunberg traveled to Davos by train to tell world leaders that climate change was his fault. His message was echoed throughout the world last year by teenagers who skipped school to march in support of stronger action to address climate change. Those students are asking their parents for a change.
“CEOs have children and grandchildren. I have heard many stories of executives sitting at the table for Christmas dinner and their nephew asked, “What are they doing about climate change?” Said Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a former special envoy of the World Bank for climate change.
Executive directors seem to be listening to these young people, many of whom also support liberal politicians.
Larry Fink, head of the world’s largest money manager, wrote a letter widely read this month urging fellow business leaders to see climate change as a financial risk. He said his company would consider climate risk in its decisions on which companies to invest in, and specifically cited the September weather protests led by young people as evidence that this problem will not disappear.
“Awareness is changing rapidly, and I think we are on the verge of fundamental finance reform,” wrote Fink, president of BlackRock and assistant forum.
For the first time, the “failure of climate action” was risk number 1 in the Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum, which is based on a survey of more than 1,000 key political and business figures. Environmental problems outweighed cyber attacks, diseases, inequality and geopolitics.
In Davos, the buzzword this year is “stakeholder capitalism,” the idea that companies have a responsibility to the environment and society to do more than maximize profits. It has long been criticized that world elites come to Davos with a series of discussion points, but in reality they do not change their practices.
Kyte says he is cautiously optimistic, at least on climate action. Even the big energy, cement and transportation companies are competing to prove they are cleaner than their “dirty” peers, he said. They know that the new regulations are likely to point them out, and they know that investors like BlackRock will not invest in them if they do not evolve.
“The question is no longer whether to do something, but what exactly to do and in what way,” said Rich Nuzum, president of Mercer’s wealth business, which works with many of the world’s largest investors.
Business leaders also increasingly recognize the inevitability that someday there will be some kind of price on carbon, probably in the form of a carbon tax. Many are trying to prepare for that reality and help shape the policies.
In some ways, inequality is a more difficult issue for many in Davos to discuss. More than 100 billionaires are on the official list of attendees for the World Economic Forum. When asked last year about how to address inequality, almost everyone said the answer was “improvement,” a reference to providing more education and training to people who are left behind. But few here want to talk about paying more taxes to finance these programs.
While candidates like Sanders and Warren keep their attention on billionaires and protesters take to the streets in Switzerland with signs that say “Eat the Rich,” there is an awareness that giving foundations and charities is no longer enough. But few here are committing to concrete solutions.
“The economic pie is bigger than ever before in history, which means we could improve everyone, but we have chosen as a society to leave many people behind,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative in the digital economy and a forum assistant. “That is not only morally inexcusable, but also very tactically bad.”