Davos Digest 2020: Issue Two

On Wednesday the rich, the powerful, and thought leaders young and old woke up to another glorious day in Switzerland packed full of more photo ops, backroom backslapping and heated debates on the key topics of the day.

President Trump continued to steal the spotlight on WEF day 2, using the global stage to lambast his domestic political opponents – referring to his impeachment trial as a hoax. He also couldn’t escape the Swiss ski resort without addressing environmental criticisms, blaming the environmental crises on other countries that aren’t “clean and beautiful.”

So far the US and France have managed to make headlines by actually avoiding a fresh trade war, as they ironed out their differences over taxation of US technology companies operating – and collecting profits – in Europe. Now all eyes are on the UK and whether it will follow suit…

Life-long environmentalist HRH Prince Charles sought to upstage Harry and Meghan (no titles, please) as he launched his Sustainable Markets Council. Echoing Greta Thunberg’s message from day one, he warned that only a revolution in the way the global economy and financial markets work can save the planet from the climate crisis and secure future prosperity.

We’re done with companies – which continent is pledging to go carbon neutral? Can a 10-year-old really found an NGO? And which new-fangled invention is hotter than fire itself? Get all the answers in today’s Davos Digest.

It’s the green way or the (electric vehicle-friendly) highway

Towards a greener Europe: It seems everyone wants their own Green New Deal these days. Not that we’re complaining. European Commission top dog Ursula von der Leyen took to the stage yesterday to sell her vision of Europe becoming “the world’s first climate-neutral continent” by 2050. According to von der Leyen, the European Green Deal holds the keys to the continent’s future growth.

Planes, trains and automobiles: Speaking at the Forum, HRH The Prince of Wales (Charles to his friends) launched the Sustainable Markets Council, a new initiative to improve the sustainability of financial markets. Charles (because yes, we are friends) may have flown in a private jet for part of his journey but he got a big round of applause for driving two hours along the mountain passes in an electric Jaguar, instead of by gas-guzzling helicopter. Everyone has their own cross to bear.

Pass the peace pipe: In his keynote address, Pakistan’s Imran Khan emphasized the need for resolutions to the border conflicts with India and Iran. Here’s hoping – we could do with less drama this year, and it’s still only January.

Looking ahead in politics… More European leaders will take the stage today to give their two cents on the world’s problems, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte and Greece’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis.


In 2020, it’s go woke or go home for corporates

Splash that cash: In a panel on CSR, Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins talked about inequality in Silicon Valley and told panelists that corporations can and must do more to help the communities in which they operate, and that can often mean spending rather a lot of money.

Winning the talent war: Speaking on the Free to Be (LGBTI) panel on mental health among LGBTI youth, Shamina Singh, President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth argued that companies must have a presence at LGBTI events if they expect people to actually want to work for them in 2020. Capping off her talk, she said everyone has “a God-given right to be [their] authentic self.” Hear hear.

Looking ahead in business: Financial inclusion has been the cornerstone of the corporate debate at Davos 2020. Today, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at fairer, more inclusive financial systems and how to build them with investment banking superstar Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock.


They grow up so fast…

Farewell not good bye: Bye Bye Plastic Bags is an NGO driven by young people dedicated to eradicating plastic waste. Co-founded by Melati Wijsen when she was just ten years old, the now-18-year-old took to the stage to express her disappointment that big brands like Coca-Cola will not ditch single-use plastic. If this means a return of 1950s-style public soda fountains then we’re all for it.

Old age is wasted on the elderly… wait what? Put down that marine collagen moisturising micro-bead cleansing serum: according to The Power of Youth panel, youth is a curse as well as a blessing. This year Davos welcomed its youngest ever speaker: the 13-year old Naomi Wadler argued that because of her age she isn’t always listened to. Don’t worry Naomi, you’re already speaking at Davos and you’re making our 13-year-old selves look bad.

Looking ahead in Youth: Naomi Wadler has a conversation with Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am (if this isn’t peak Davos we don’t know what is). We’ll also be hearing from 15-year-old Autumn Peltier about ‘how to turn protest into progress’.


Clouds ahead for tech giants

Gimme all your money! Well what about 2%… please? British Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid reiterated his Government’s commitment to the digital services tax. His defence of the policy, which would see tech giants paying more tax on UK profits, comes a day after France announced plans to drop a similar tax as they pursue a US trade deal.

AI is, like, so fire right now: In his hotly anticipated talk, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai made headlines claiming that artificial intelligence will be more profound for humanity “than fire and electricity.” ”Hey Google, let us know when you can hook the grill up to some juice and cook us a barbeque.”

Bridgital Nation: On Tuesday, N. Chandrasekeran, chairman of the Tata Group, hosted a panel featuring actress and film producer Priyanka Chopra and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, focusing on the future of India’s economy. The panel discussed how AI could be used to solve several key problems for the emerging world, including providing jobs and access to vital services/infrastructure. The event marked the launch of the book ‘Bridgital Nation’, co-written by Chandrasekaran.

Looking ahead in tech: Today YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki will tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the tech sector in a discussion on how AI and machine learning can confront disinformation and extremist views online. She’s got a big job ahead of her.


Equality for all

Winnie’s back: At last year’s WEF, UN Undersecretary Winnie Byanyima sparked intense debate when she called out business models maximising profits for shareholders at the expense of vulnerable workers. This year, she returned with a hard-hitting call for greater understanding of HIV as a social justice issue.

Point scoring for Pakistan: Inequality was also the subject of the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) session exploring their work over the past two decades. The session followed GAVI’s CEO, Seth Berkley’s earlier meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, where the two discussed Pakistan’s landmark move to be the first country to immunise millions of children against typhoid.

Healthy plates, healthy world: On the Feed the Planet for the Future panel, Johan Rockström, one of the world’s leading sustainability experts, warned that global warning threatens to reduce yields and reduce the nutritional quality of foods. However, he made the case that by eating healthier diets, made up of more plant rather than meat proteins, more plant-based oils, more wholegrain and less sugar, sodium and starchy vegetables, we could both feed the world and reduce emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Looking ahead in Healthcare: Today experts will reveal how drug-resistant super bugs are undermining modern medicine and what happens when your doctor is actually a robot.


In other news

You laughing at me? Davos doesn’t exactly scream “LOL”, and UCL neuroscientist and stand-up comedian Sophie Scott was here to change that yesterday. She raised more than a chortle as she gave a scientific spin on the uniting power of laughter and its place in foreign policy. Want proof? Check out this clip of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin enjoying a giggly press conference. Those mischievous presidents.


You made it! Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow from the wonderful world of Davos.