Sustainability was the main theme at this year's Davos meeting. This felt strangely appropriate at a time when the world is struggling to come to terms with global warming.

Especially as the situation threatens to become worse because of growing divisions among nations and businesses on how to effectively tackle it.

The meeting followed the publication of the Global Risks Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) which put climate change and other environmental concerns ahead of the risks posed by more traditional geopolitical tensions and cyber-attacks.

This was the first time that the top five identified Global Risks – in terms of likelihood - were all environmental; ranging from extreme weather events to businesses and governments failing to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Looked at in isolation, this is already a very evident change of focus.

But, when coupled with the recurring remarks at this year’s Davos, in particular about how different this year’s WEF felt when compared to previous years, there should, perhaps, be cautious optimism that we’re finally on the right track.

Our representatives at Davos attended a large number of panels, meetings and were involved in many discussions with their peers. The common theme throughout all of these was that so many people who – until recently – had been defending the status quo, were now preaching the virtues of change. 

Indeed, the number of political and business leaders pledging themselves to take real and measurable action was unprecedented.

This was not only in reference to sustainability and many frequently cited environmental concerns, but also diversity, artificial intelligence (AI), education, the fourth industrial revolution, the aging of our population and resilient healthcare systems.

Our team came back with so much insight after their time in Switzerland that we can’t possibly share it all in this piece. But we would like to share a handful of the soundbites that resonated most with both Stephan and Francois.

  • According to the United Nations & the OECD, by 2030, the world will need to be raising between USD4 to USD7 trillion – every year – to meet climate and development targets.
  • We should seek to give concrete meaning to the term 'stakeholder capitalism' – whereby businesses should serve the interests of all society rather than simply their shareholders.
  • Data quality and access to data, as well as access to suitable talent, are all seen as major obstacles to implementing AI.
  • Investors are looking to grow their portfolios in emerging markets, but in order to do so they either need to take the time to understand the local business environment, or they need a partner that understands the lay of the land.

And, perhaps the most poignant of these, and the one that will ultimately determine the future of not only our business, but our planet as a whole.

  • In order to heal a divisive world we need a change in both mindset and behaviour.

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Stephan Pouyat
Global Head of Capital Markets and Funds Services, Euroclear

Francois J. Tilly
Unit Head - Middle East & Africa, Euroclear