SDG Planning Calender 2022

UN Water Conference

WEF by the numbers: highlights

Handshakes were back in full force at the 2023 edition of the World Economic Forum. So much so that the Congress Centre’s lost and found team was left drowning in misplaced gloves.

The Covid pandemic appeared to be in the rearview mirror although participants were obliged to do spit tests at the start of the event. Few wore face masks. Most had embraced the QR code – popularised by the pandemic – to exchange digital business cards. Sometimes the highs and lows of WEF are best captured by numbers. Here are some that stood out to SWI this week.

That’s the age of World Economic Forum founder and chair, Klaus Schwab. While he warmly welcomed global business and political elites to the Magic Mountain along with Swiss President Alain Berset, an undisclosed number of WEF staffers turned to The GuardianExternal link to air their concerns of the man at the helm of the event for the past 52 years. The question of succession appears to be an uncomfortable one shrouded in mystery.

“Klaus picks his leaders using the same criteria Putin uses to pick deputies for the state duma: loyalty, guile, sex appeal,” the group said.

WEF Chief Economist Outlook: Almost two-thirds of about 50 chief economists believe a global recession is likely in 2023; of which 18% consider it extremely likely – more than twice as many as in the previous survey conducted in September 2022.

Only a third of respondents consider a global recession to be unlikely this year. All of them believe there will be very low, very tepid growth, in 2023, recession or not. For Switzerland, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) predicts a growth rate of 0.7% in 2023, down from 2.1% in 2022.

Swiss NGO Public Eye crunched the numbers and concluded that Switzerland’s commodities sector now contributes over 8% of GDP, versus the typical 3.8%, thanks to excess profits generated from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. It urged the Swiss government and parliament to ensure a fair distribution of exceptional profits made in times of crisis when millions of individuals are struggling to cope with high energy and food prices.

“A tenfold increase in profits in a time of crisis, as in the case of Glencore, is clearly illegitimate,” Public Eye said in a report released during the week of WEF. “As a consequence, such as has already been introduced in the EU and various other countries, a special tax must be levied on crisis-related excess profits by energy and commodity companies based in Switzerland.”

The notion of a windfall tax is one that the few oil and gas executives that participated in public panels at WEF endorse. Oil executives argue that such measures will hurt investment in renewable energies and undermine economic growth. Those kinds of arguments leave young climate activists like Sweden's Greta Thunberg unimpressed. She turned up at the Magic Mountain and slammed Davos as a gathering of people who are at the very core of the climate crisis: the people who are investing in fossil fuels.

“These people are going to go as far as they possibly can, as long as they can get away with it, they will continue to invest in fossil fuels, they will continue to throw people under the bus for their own gain,” she said speaking at a sideline event.

The roar of artificial snow cannons around the highest town of Europe provided a much-cited reminder of the high stakes of the climate crisis. The world’s enduring love for cars was evident in Davos with WEF electric shuttles, Ubers, taxis, private limousines and vehicles clogging the streets.

Al Gore, chairman and co-founder of Generation Investment Management, cautioned “the [climate] crisis is still getting worse faster than we are deploying solutions – emissions are still going up.”

In the new era of hybrid work, the majority of employees (87%) report that they are delivering on the productivity front. Productivity indicators such as hours worked, meetings attended and other activity metrics collected across the globe by Microsoft confirm that. But despite the evidence, 85% of business leaders don’t see the hard work of their employees and are in the grips of “productivity paranoia”, increasingly turning to technology to track activity when really they should be measuring impact.

It’s not only employee productivity that business leaders are underestimating.

$23.84 trillion
Cyberattacks increased during the pandemic as rapid adoption of connected devices became critical for work, education and healthcare. Despite the ongoing threat, safety protocols lag far behind the escalating cost to the global economy caused by cyberattacks, which is predicted to rise from $8.44 trillion (CHF7.7 trillion) in 2022 to $23.84 trillion by 2027. According to a new World Economic Forum reportExternal link, State of the Connected World 2023, only 4% of experts worldwide are “confident” that connected devices are properly secure.

Only 2% of the $810 billion spent in philanthropic giving went towards reducing emissions, according to WEF. It has launched a new initiative, Giving to Amplify Earth Action (GAEA), to leverage philanthropic capital to help generate the $3 trillion needed annually to tackle climate change and nature loss.

Meanwhile, research conducted by Zurich-based South Pole has found that out of about 60,000 global companies monitored, only 1,075 – less than 2% – have a corporate "climate neutrality" target in place. “People who do [set targets] will be criticised and will be asked to do more,” Magdi Batato, executive vice president of Nestlé in charge of operations said at the event. “The people who don’t get away with it.”

2% is also the amount that women founders receive in terms of all venture capital funding. The Female Quotient, a female-owned business advancing equality in the workplace, is trying to change this by creating a directory of curated recommendations for the people and resources they need to advance their businesses.

The Schweiz am Wochenende newspaper notes that a three-bed studio in the canton Graubünden town costs CHF2,600 ($2,800) a night during the WEF week. With service charges and cleaning, this comes to CHF15,000 for the five nights of the event. In February, the same studio rents for CHF150 a night.

Swiss parliament renewed approval for 5,000 members of the Swiss army to guarantee the security of some 3,000 WEF participants for the years 2022 to 2024.