Ibec Global Insights - The World Economic Forum: What does it mean for business?

January 17, 2023

"The world today is at a critical inflection point. The sheer number of ongoing crises calls for bold collective action."

That is the message being promoted this year, as leaders from government, business and civil society gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. It will be the first time that the conference has taken place in winter as usual since 2020.

Against a backdrop of high inflation, reviving economic growth will undoubtedly take centre stage at this year's summit, as will sustainability, resilience and inclusion. But we may also see discussions around the future of globalisation itself. 

Since the last 'in person' conference, much has happened in the geopolitical space, leading to this year's theme: "cooperation in a fragmented world". Crises – from the Covid-19 pandemic to the ongoing war in Ukraine and its impacts on food and energy security – have exposed the fragility of global supply networks and helped fan the flames of nationalism and protectionist trade policies. In short, they have brought the very concept of globalisation under the microscope. Globalisation is 'temporarily pausing' was the diagnosis from Proctor & Gamble's Europe President, Loic Tassel, last year.

However, this does not mean we should turn inwards; quite the opposite. The crises of the past few years only serve to highlight the importance of international cooperation for tackling the shared challenges faced across the world. From energy and transport, to biopharma and health, to tech and financial services, global trade is fundamental for economic growth and innovation across all sectors.

There is huge willingness within the business community to drive innovation which will be integral to finding solutions to major global challenges. 2023 looks set to have the highest ever business participation at the World Economic Forum, with 1,500 business leaders registered across 700 organisations and from an array of sectors, including over 600 of the world's top CEOs. 

As governments look to industry to turn big ideas into action, business leaders must build on this momentum. At Davos this year, it is crucial that governments, business and civil society renew their commitment to cooperation. Global challenges can only be solved together.