Davos Digest 2019: Issue Two

Yesterday at Davos was a rude awakening for those of us hoping for a respite from more Brexit and US government shutdown debate.

On Tuesday, Former US Secretary of State John Kerry had a one-word answer when asked for his message to President Donald Trump: “Resign“. But our favorite politician’s soundbite so far came from UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Accused by UK Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn of attending only to quaff champagne with the global elite, he responded with “Does it look like it?”.

Somalian refugee Mohammed Hassan’s incredible “refugee camp to Davos” story delivered a powerful plea for us to rethink our view of refugees, and did just that with one of WEF’s more remarkable sessions – a simulation intended to make people feel what it’s like to be an asylum seeker. While most were busy sipping their morning coffee, men with guns were ordering people onto their knees and stealing their watches in a car park below. One attending Hewlett Packard executive said the simulation “will stay with [them] forever”.

Mental health was at the forefront of yesterday’s agenda, with a WEF survey revealing that anxiety is now more prevalent than depression globally. This may come as no surprise to the nerve-wracked CEOs who admitted to a host of business-related anxieties ahead of DAVOS.

Despite his warnings yesterday that technology could lead to a third world war, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma may be an exception to pessimistic trends. What keeps him awake at night? “Nothing! If I don’t sleep well, the problem will still be there. If I sleep, I have a better chance to fight it.” Move over Chuck Norris…


New year, same message

  • What’s been keeping you? After five years of absence, Japan’s Shinzo Abe returned to the stage to promote his country’s new economic partnership with the EU. It’s alright for some, eh? In the world’s largest agreement of its kind, data transferred from the EU to Japan will enjoy protection standards in line with European ones.
  • Britain no mates: While Japan and the EU showcased their new BFF status, Britain’s leaderless delegation milled around touting the benefits of free trade. When asked about the odds of a Brexit deal, Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox revealed he “would have a better chance of predicting the lottery.” As always, encouraging stuff.
  • Merkel, why so predictable? Queen and defender of the world order Angela Merkel used her speech to reprimand countries “looking to their own interests first” before working towards global solutions that are “good for all”, echoing her New Year’s address to Germany.

Looking ahead in politics… António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, will deliver a special address and Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, will be speaking on “Africa’s Leadership in the New Global Context.” Will it include Britain?


Light at the end of the tunnel

A force for good: The changing role of corporations and their CEOs is emerging as a key theme this year. Mark Weinberger, EY Global Chairman and CEO, explained how businesses and their leaders now have an obligation to have a positive impact on wider society. And he’s not the only one. YPO’s 2019 Global Leadership Study found that today’s business leaders overwhelmingly include social impact as part of their purpose. The proof of the pudding, though, is in the eating.

The dreaded ‘B’ word: Somewhat unsurprisingly, Carolyn Fairbairn has said there’s a consensus at Davos that Brexit is indeed putting strain on the global economy. The Director General of the Confederation of British Industry said the most critical thing was to avoid a no-deal Brexit. The saga continues…

Looking ahead in business: Doom and gloom is not constructive. Today sees two sessions that will try to provide solutions to two of the world’s largest problems: how to create jobs in the age of machines and algorithms, and how to take practical steps to a more sustainable global consumption model.


We have now entered Globalisation 4.0

  • Emerging markets making leaps and bounds: Jack Ma shared his insights into where the world economy should be heading: “global buy and global sell”. With 600 million users on Alibaba, he may be on to something. Paul Kagame, speaking alongside Ma, put this into perspective as he described a recent deal his government just signed with Alibaba to sell Rwandan coffee to China.
  • What’s the purpose of a marketer at Davos? Purpose, as it turns out. Davos regular and SAP CEO Bill McDermott is joined by Alicia Tillman this year, the CMO whose first visit will focus on how brands can achieve a higher purpose. In 2019, fake news and distrust of tech firms continues to occupy the public discourse. For Tillman, it is no longer simply about the performance of products, it is about creating real change today
  • Should we fear the Splinternet? It’s probably not a phrase you’ve heard, but experts are increasingly worried about it in an age of geopolitical divides. Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt fears that the US-China trade war may be leading to a splitting of the internet between the two sides. Brunch? Brexit? Splinternet? Maybe it’s time we stopped using the portmanteaus.

Looking ahead in tech: Following the theme of Globalisation 4.0 at this year’s Davos, today will look at rebuilding trust, fighting cybercrime and transformation in the digital economy, as some the world’s largest companies bet big on what the future of consumption will look like.


Mental health is front of mind

  • #TimeToAct (and invest) in mental health: Johnson&Johnson VC and Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels joined peers in a call to improve mental health, which is predicted to be the main cause of global mortality and morbidity by 2030. The Wellcome Trust will invest £200m to shape a new super-discipline of mental health science.
  • Leading by example: The great and good of Davos can start the day meditating for 30 minutes. The daily sessions are led by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche, whose “lighthearted, yet illuminating style appeals to both beginners and advanced practitioners alike.”
  • Heads together on stigma: The Duke of Cambridge described how his own experiences have inspired him to help campaigners break the “glass ceiling of stigma”. Panellist Bernard Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, recalled an executive describing his mental health problem as “like wearing a helmet he couldn’t take off” – inspiring him to outline his four priorities for ending the stigma over mental health.
  • Budgeting for well-being: Countries on average spend less than 1% of their health budgets on mental health. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, spoke passionately about making mental health a priority in her country. A new ‘well-being budget’ will gauge the long-term impact of policy on the quality of New Zealanders’ lives.

Looking ahead in health: Today, communities will be challenged to come up with ideas to address the causes and impacts of loneliness. Experts will also ask how public and private collaborations can boost the R&D pipeline for Alzheimer’s disease.


Join us tomorrow for our next Davos Digest!