The future of capitalism has been a hot topic at the Annual Meeting this week, with a variety of opinions and positions taken by Davos participants.

It's dead...

"Capitalism as we have known it is dead. This obsession we have with maximising profits for shareholders alone has lead to incredible inequality and a planetary emergency."

capitalism future of business

And we've derailed...

"Maybe somewhere we derailed a little bit, where we thought making money is the real goal of the econony, where the real goal is to live happily here all together."

Feike Sijbesma at the same session.

But this presents an opportunity...

"Business leaders now have an incredible opportunity. By giving stakeholder capitalism concrete meaning, they can move beyond their legal obligations and uphold their duty to society. They can bring the world closer to achieving shared goals, such as those outlined in the Paris climate agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda. If they really want to leave their mark on the world, there is no alternative."

Professor Klaus Schwab in his op-ed ahead of the meeting: Why we need the 'Davos Manifesto' for a better kind of capitalism

capitalism future of business

For things to change...

"The whole way that we do business, that we live and that we have grown accustomed to in the industrial age, will have to be changed. We will have to leave that behind us in the next 30 years and we have to come to completely new value chains."

Chancellor Angela Merkel told the audience at her special address.

But we can't ignore the lessons of history...

"Capitalism is the worst of all possible economic systems, apart from all the others that have been tried from time to time."

Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, USA, speaking in the Democratic Capitalism: Dead End or Shared Destiny? session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 23 January. Congress Centre - Spotlight. Copyright by World Economic Forum/Mattias Nutt
Niall Ferguson
Image: World Economic Forum / Mattias N

Or what many companies are already doing...

"Companies won't survive if you don't take care of other stakeholders. Japanese companies have been criticised for the last 20 years for not paying enough attention or for not putting shareholders first. Japanese companies used to say the customer first, employees second, shareholders third ... and we've been criticised for that."

Hiromichi Mizuno, Executive Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer, Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), Japan, speaking in the Stakeholder Capitalism: How to Enable Long-Term Investing session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 21 January. Congress Centre – Aspen 2. Copyright by World Economic Forum/Sandra Blaser
Hiromichi Mizuno
Image: World Economic Forum/Sandra Blaser

Or the role of other players...

"It is government's responsibility first and foremost to create an environment, whether it is regulatory or in terms of policy, in which corporations will behave."

Dambisa Mayo in the same session as Niall Ferguson.

Dambisa Moyo, Global Economist, Mildstorm Group, USA; Young Global Leader, speaking in the Democratic Capitalism: Dead End or Shared Destiny? session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 23 January. Congress Centre - Spotlight. Copyright by World Economic Forum/Mattias Nutt
Dambisa Moyo
Image: World Economic Forum

But businesses have more to do.

"CEOs in today's world have more to do to communicate that stakeholder capitalism is for the shareholders' long-term benefit."

Satya Nadella on Thursday morning.