In January 2024, Handshake and nearly 3,000 world leaders from government, business, and civil society representing 125 countries descended upon the town of Davos, nestled among the snow peaks of the Swiss Alps, for the World Economic Forums 54th Annual Meeting. This was Handshake’s 10th year at Davos, and we continued the tradition of executing distinctive programs and engagement on behalf of our clients while working with a diverse range of new and existing partners to bring new perspectives to the mountaintop.
We partnered with Brandfuel and Hub Culture to host the Leadership Lounge at the famed KaffeeKlatsch at Promenade 72 which quickly became a catalyst for engagement and collaboration in the heart of Davos and was named the “best space in Davos” in Axios’ closing Davos newsletter. We also relaunched The Impact Studio in a central location directly on the Promenade where more than a dozen partners hosted interviews, created thought leadership content, and led interactive presentations with journalists from BBC/ Forbes/TIME, NBC/MSNBC, Fortune, and The Times of London. As a result, and with the help of our studio team with dual cameras, same-day editing, and full audiovisual capabilities, we helped produce more than 40 pieces of video, podcast, YouTube, and LinkedIn Live content for clients and partners.
Building on the Annual Meeting’s theme for 2024 was Rebuilding Trust – a pressing need given increasing global tensions, concern for the accelerated development of artificial intelligence, rampant misinformation, the uncertain global economic landscape, and the environmental and social impacts on business and society – the private sector was center stage. Speakers like Ursela von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, made clear that while governments hold many policy levers to address these challenges, the private sector has the innovation, technology and talents, essential for strategic and swift action. The Forum-released 2024 Global Risks Report suggests that public-private partnerships and intra-industry alliances are increasingly important to address complex sustainability challenges that are too costly for companies to tackle alone.
Discussions inside the Congress Center and along the Promenade centered around the themes of Achieving Security and Cooperation in a Fractured World, Creating Growth and Jobs for a New Era, Artificial Intelligence as a Driving Force for the Economy and Society, and A Long-Term Strategy for Climate, Nature and Energy.
Executives and economists alike, highlighted a nuanced picture—acknowledging the weakest global economic growth since the 1990s but projecting an avoidance of a deep recession in 2024. The emphasis was also on reskilling workers, recognizing that that nearly 44% of core skills would change over the next four years with overall job growth expected to be stagnant. Agriculture and education emerged as the sectors poised for the most significant growth.
Amid a week dominated by Artificial Intelligence, some companies touted their advancements while others downplayed associated risks. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman suggested that AI might have a less dramatic impact than anticipated, while Meta Chief AI Scientist Yann LeChun emphasized a need for AI to be democratized by subsiding computing power for institutions outside Big Tech, open-source AI research, and regulation that encourages competition. There was also a significant focus on AI’s role in achieving sustainability goals, such as achieving a net-zero footprint in buildings through AI, as was advocated by Katie McGinty of Johnson Controls.
Overall, discussions steered away from the ESG as acronym, signaling a move towards language such as resilience-building, climate-smart economy and long-term risk mitigation when presenting sustainability initiatives to shareholders and stakeholders. Yet, while these terms received less “air time” in the Congress Centre, it was clear that 2024 will be a consequential year for energy transition, climate action and sustainability-related policies, marked by national elections, in over 60 countries around the world including the U.S, the U.K., India, South Korea.
Regardless of results in the voting booth, there is the anticipation that investments in the climate-smart economy will continue to be driven by the private sector, while oil-producing nations may attempt to step back from ambitious commitments leading to divisions at COP29 in Azerbaijan and the G20 in Brazil. This was further enhanced by International Sustainability Standards (ISSB) Chair Emmanuel Faber who emphasized that we now face a “regulatory tipping point,” calling for a shift towards a global unified sustainability reporting system, something industry has long called for. Additionally, the discussions in Davos were notable as they moved beyond technology and innovation with a significant focus on Nature Based Solutions, a positive development heading into Columbia for COP16.
Overall, it is clear that while governments are increasingly focused on major geopolitical shifts and growing global strife, the private sector must continue to wield its influence and expertise to deploy unified solutions to drive the agenda, make progress toward our shared goals, and continuing to propel the society forward.
SUMMARY OF KEY WEF 2024 ANNOUNCEMENTS
- The Global Foresight Network incubator was launched by the Forum, House of Switzerland and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to help build preparedness and collective capacity.
- The Faith in Action report showed case studies of faith actors working in innovative partnerships with the private sector, concluding that fostering deeper connections between these two spheres can yield both mutual value and powerful solutions to address pressing issues.
- The Global Cooperation Barometer, written in collaboration with McKinsey and Company, highlights that cooperation is multifaceted and can coexist with competition. In 2023, trade and capital cooperation slowed, innovation and technology cooperation (data flows, IP and international students) increased, climate and natural capital cooperation has been rising steadily due to the number of new commitments (though emissions continue to rise), health and wellness cooperation rose but now appears to be settling to historical patterns, and peace and security cooperation has declined since 2016—plummeting recently.
- The Davos Baukultur Alliance members pledged to unite public and private sector stakeholders to develop frameworks in preparation for rebuilding Ukraine.
- The Humanitarian and Resilience Investing initiative unveiled more than 50 commitments aimed at enhancing impact investment in frontier markets.
Reskilling and upskilling
- The Reskilling Revolution initiative, empowering people with enhanced jobs, skills and education, has reached 680 million people out of its goal of 1 billion by 2030. Additionally, Philippines, Vietnam and Qatar have joined 20 Country Accelerators focusing on human capital investments.
- The Jobs of Tomorrow: Large Language Models and Jobs – A Business Toolkit, launched in collaboration with Accenture, defines and addresses key concerns on the impact of large language models (LLMs) on jobs and the need for responsible business adoption.
- The Forum’s Putting Skills First: Opportunities for Building Efficient and Equitable Labour Markets report describes a proactive approach to the complexities of the future job market, and the Good Work Alliance set ambitious targets to provide good working conditions to 2.5 million workers.
- The Gender Parity Sprint is national public-private partnerships committed to accelerating economic parity by 2030 within four objectives: enabling women’s participation in the labor force, closing the gender wage gap, advancing women into leadership and management roles, hardwiring gender parity in the future of work.
- The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lighthouses five common success factors yielded the most significant, scalable, quantifiable and sustained impact for underrepresented groups. These elements can help set up an organization’s DEI initiatives for success. nuanced understanding of root causes, meaningful definition of success, accountable and invested business leaders, solutions designed for context, rigorous tracking and course correction.
- Alliance for Global Good – Gender Equity and Equality was launched by the Government of India. It builds on Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to global best practices in women’s health, enterprise, and education. It builds on the foundations of the G20 presidency, supported by the World Economic Forum and Gates Foundation. India’s emerging economy has moved from women-centric development to women-led development.
- Over 35 organizations in collaboration with Mercer developed the Longevity Economy Principles to support healthy, prosperous and resilient long lives. It showcases six principles to address the challenges of ageing populations and promote financial resilience for extended lifespans.
- The Global Alliance for Women’s Health, which is a multisector platform that puts women’s health on the global agenda, announced 42 organizations have collectively pledged $55 million to improve women’s health outcomes worldwide. In collaboration with McKinsey Health Institute, the Forum published Closing the Women’s Health Gap: A $1 Trillion Opportunity to Improve Lives and Economies that could potentially boost the global economy by at least $1 trillion annually by 2040.
- The Equitable Transition Initiative’s new Building Trust through an Equitable and Inclusive Energy Transition report finds that building equity and inclusivity more strongly into the business and economic case can accelerate the energy transition, unlocking full benefits for individuals and communities
- The Refugee Employment Alliance has hired over 54,000 refugees globally in the last two years and expected to deliver on its commitment to hire 125,000 additional refugees by the end of 2027.
- The Schwab Foundation announced the 16 winners of the Social Innovation Awards 2024 Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship launched the Rise Ahead Pledge to support and meet the $1.125 trillion needed to fund social innovation globally.
- The Global Lighthouse Network, a community of leading manufacturing sites using Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and innovative approaches to boost productivity and sustainability in operations, has 21 new members. New centers joined the network for the Centre of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Germany for public sector digital transformation, Vietnam for green growth, Qatar for sustainable development and economic competitiveness, and letter of intent with Ukraine for digital transformation of government and digital literacy.
- The AI Governance Alliance initiated a worldwide endeavor to enhance AI accessibility. This is elaborated in three papers about enhancing data quality and availability, improving access to computational resources, and customizing foundational models to align with local requirements and challenges.
- UpLink, the Forum’s open innovation platform, has raised CHF 37 million ($43 million) in funding commitments through 2027 to help early-stage impact entrepreneurs to scale their people- and planet-focused ventures.
- Artificial Intelligence for Social Innovation initiative was launched by the Schwab Foundation to allow faster and more responsible adoption of AI for impact, especially in the Global South.
- The new Digital Healthcare Transformation Initiative will garner momentum for public-private collaboration around digital health, data and artificial intelligence.
- The Global Collaboration Village, built in partnership with Microsoft and Accenture, alongside 140 private, public and academic partners demonstrated a metaverse platform that brings leaders together to solve real-world problems through the collaborative potential of virtual reality.
- The Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2024 report notes important and timely solutions to address cyber inequity and the impact of emerging technologies.
- The EDISON Alliance provides affordable and accessible digital solutions in education, financial services and healthcare. The alliance has reached 78% of its goal of reaching a billion people by 2025, through 320 initiatives across 127 countries.
- The Quantum Security for the Financial Sector: Informing Global Regulatory Approaches reports innovations in quantum computing that show how to mitigate new, complex risks posed by emerging technologies.
- The Alliance for Urban Innovation opened applications for its first cohort of pioneer cities. It works with Forum partners and world-leading innovators to advance more resilient, safe, inclusive and sustainable communities.
Climate and nature
- The First Movers Coalition for Food launched with 30 partners, including the UAE and over 20 leading food companies, to aggregate procurement demand for low-emission agricultural commodities and speed up the adoption of sustainable farming, innovations and transitional funding.
- The Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders 2024 report titled Bold Measures to Close the Climate Action Gap: A Call for Systemic Change by Governments and Corporations outlines the urgency of climate progress to limit global warming in four dimensions: countries, companies, technologies, and financing.
- The new Network to Mobilize Clean Energy Investment for the Global South presents a framework to amplify the investment needs of developing nations and advance solutions to increase green energy capital flows globally, helping to unlock an estimated $2.2-2.8 trillion.
- The First Movers Coalition for Industry, advancing the most critical, emerging climate technologies by leveraging members’ collective purchasing power in high emission industry sectors, such as steel and cement, now has over 90+ company members.
- Developed in collaboration with Oliver Wyman, the Quantifying the Impact of Climate Change on Human Health report estimates a potential $12.5 trillion in economic losses and over two billion healthy life years lost by 2050.
- The Global Commission on Nature-Positive Cities shared a draft framework for consultation with the aim of defining key attributes of a nature-positive city, identifying enablers that enhance cities’ capacity to drive a nature-positive transition, and providing guidelines for rehabilitating nature in the urban era.
- The Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA) initiative has a new Big Bets Accelerator to gain momentum on bringing public, private and philanthropic funding together to unlock $3 trillion of financing for equitable climate and nature solutions.
- Additional cities shared that they are using the Global New Mobility Coalition’s scorecard tool to help benchmark progress toward more sustainable and inclusive mobility.
- Over 100 companies pledged to conserve, restore and grow 12 billion trees through 1t.org, the World Economic Forum’s trillion trees platform.
- Earth Decides and Culture Moves were launched to carry out the vision of a net-zero world into the cultural tenets of sport, food, entertainment, arts and fashion.
- The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) grew to 15 partners with recent countries of Colombia, the Philippines and Zambia.
- The Transforming Energy Demand report announced actions on energy demand can be taken by all companies now, are profitable and can accelerate progress towards climate goals. In key energy demand areas of industry, buildings and transportation, the International Business Council and the Centre for Energy and Materials will support the creation of cross-sectoral accelerator partnerships and policies.
- Transitioning Industrial Clusters initiative was joined by France, China and the U.S. to drive economic growth, employment and the energy transition. The Transitioning Industrial Cluster Annual Report highlighted strategies to reach net zero while attaining their full economic and employment potential
- New energy reports were published: on securing minerals for the energy transition, a roadmap for green hydrogen adoption in India, and an ASEAN Leaders for Just Energy Transition shared aspirations statement.
- The Global Risks Report contextualized risks through four structural forces–climate change, demographic bifurcation, technological acceleration, and geostrategic shifts–that will shape the materialization and management of global risks over the next decade. In the short term (2 years), the top three risks are misinformation/disinformation, extreme weather events, and societal polarization. In the long term (10 years), top global risks are predicted to be extreme weather events, critical change to Earth systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
- The 2024 Chief Economists Outlook notes global economic uncertainty with 56% of chief economists predicting the global economy to weaken this year, yet 43% foresee unchanged or stronger conditions. This year focuses on two major impacts: the expected geopolitical developments likely to stoke volatility in the global economy (87%) and in stock markets (80%), and advancements in generative AI increasing productivity gains significantly.
- The TradeTech Global shared its Catalyzing Innovation insight report for collaborative use of technology for global commerce to unlock trillions in trade. The report generated three takeaways: collaboration is crucial to overcome first-mover costs; enabling regulations and proactive governance are needed to create a trusting environment; catalytic collaborations and pilot projects are needed at multiple stages of tech introduction.
- Through the Coalition of Trade Ministers on Climate, over 20 trade, finance and environment ministers identified a common agenda for sustainable growth within and across economies. Representing 1.8 billion citizens, 15 investment promotion leads called for a Climate FDI Coalition to help investment agencies channel climate finance commitments into domestic green growth projects.
- Future of Growth Report 2024 offers a framework to balance GDP with four pillars that assess quality of growth that balance innovativeness, inclusiveness, sustainability and resilience goals.
- The New Era of Industrial Strategies: Tackling Grand Challenges through Public-Private Collaboration was launched in collaboration with Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy and the UN Industrial Development Organization. The report highlights five grand challenges that are fundamentally shaping the future of industrial strategies: environmental sustainability, supply chain resilience, technology scale-up and adoption, securing future workforce skills, and linking social and business value.