What is the future for non-financial reporting? Image: Unsplash/Samson
- More than 1,400 business leaders from across industries came together in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023.
- The theme was ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’ and it’s never been more important for private-public cooperation to find solutions to the myriad challenges facing the world today.
- Here's what you need to know about the sessions at Davos that covered the balancing act businesses face between managing risks and making a positive impact.
In the heat-laden months of 2022, it became abundantly clear the health of the planet is deteriorating. Companies are increasingly expected by investors and the wider public to be part of the multistakeholder, collaborative effort to restore it – and be transparent.
As more than 1,500 business leaders came together in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 – the highest ever business participation – the future of non-financial reporting and investment was high on the agenda.
But so too was the prevailing economic conditions and the risks businesses face today.
A global recession is considered to be extremely or somewhat likely this year by 63% of the economists surveyed for the Forum's latest Chief Economists Outlook.
It finds businesses face a "triple challenge" at the start of 2023: continued high prices of key inputs, alongside tightening monetary policy and weakening demand.
Moreover, in the past year, the global risks landscape has become increasingly interconnected, the Forum's Global Risks Report 2023 shows.
Of the top 10 risks experts consider to be the most severe in the next 2 years, the cost-of-living crisis is the biggest, followed by natural disasters and extreme weather events and geopolitical confrontation.
Navigating and managing these risks while contributing to efforts to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals was the balancing act business leaders will discuss at Davos.
Better business at the Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos
The leaders at Davos included more than 600 of the world’s leading CEOs from the Forum’s Members and Partners, with top-level representation from sectors such as financial services, energy, materials and infrastructure, information and communication technologies. They come as governments increasingly look to business to take big ideas and put them into action quickly and inclusively.
There was a strong representation of Global Innovators who are transforming industries, with more than 90 mission-driven leaders from the Forum’s Technology Pioneers and recently launched Unicorn communities.
Here is an overview of some of the sessions:
With environmental, stakeholder, economic and geopolitical pressures on the mind of leaders around the world, the legitimacy of the sustainability reporting systems is being challenged politically in some jurisdictions, while others are pushing ahead with ambitious efforts that will leave key stakeholders behind. This discussion centred around how multinational companies can continue to drive the global effort toward responsible capitalism, particularly through building their own sustainable value chains and providing capital markets with consistent, transparent and comparable information.
It's about aligning the whole enterprise. That will create a lot more action - how we purchase, how we consume energy, how we hire, how we promote, away from the classic 'philanthropy broadening into corporate governance' approach. That's 70s and 80s - we are now in a different world, which is, you have to align the whole system to get the progress that society wants.”
Investors in natural ecosystems face hard choices to ensure credible outcomes at scale, given the rapid action needed to stabilize Earth systems and legitimate concerns of greenwashing. The panel discussed how data, regulation and Indigenous knowledge can spur investors to channel resources towards quality conservation and restoration at scale.
My mantra in this area is 'Don't let perfect be the enemy of good' - we have got to go fast and we've got to put transparency at the heart of the effort.”
We have to live in a world where mandatory reporting will become more relevant. It isn't enough to be voluntary and hope no-one calls you out. Investors will look to the data because... disclosure drives insight and insight drives action - and action is what investors want to see on the ground."”
The world is undergoing interacting crises in food, energy, health and nature that are threatening our way of life and accelerating us towards a global catastrophe. What visionary leadership is needed for systems thinking, transformative solutions and global collaboration to build a more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future? Here are some of the key points that emerged:
On water scarcity: "There are amazing solutions, entrepreneurs and innovations in many parts of the world but how do we get them to collaborate, to connect, even to pilot in different parts? some solutions are local, How can you take them global?we cannot solve the climate crisis without solving the water crisis."
Roshni Nadar Malhotra, Chairperson of HCL Technologies
On fossil fuels: "May I assure you we have the technology right now... it's improving absolutely. Every industry in the world has sufficient technology now to start moving away from fossil fuels... this is good business.
"Eliminating emissions is great business but it's also catastrophic if you do nothing today."
Andrew Forrest, Chairman and Founder, Fortescue Metals Group Limited
On impact: "Indigenous people all across the planet are on the front lines. We're also on the front lines of defending our relatives in the ocean, in the forests, from environmental genocide."
Fawn Sharp, President, National Congress of American Indians
On reducing emissions with technology: "We have the technologies we need, the IEA says for a 50% reduction, with proven deployment models available to us. The next 50% after 2030 we have the technologies that are in development. We know how to get there."
Al Gore, Chairman and Co-Founder, Generation Investment Management LLP
The power of shareholders to shape the corporate narrative is not to be underestimated. What is the responsibility of large shareholders to challenge misaligned corporate behaviour and excess in executive compensation?
Nicolai Tangen, Chief Executive Officer, Norges Bank Investment Management, was in conversation with Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action & Finance. Tangen explained that, in his view, boards are failing in three ways:-
Climate: only 17% have a credible net zero plan and "we think that's way too low and they need to get their act together."
Executive pay: it's gone out of proportion. "In 2021 we saw executive pay go up by 15% and we think it's never been a worse time to show this type of corporate greed", said Tangen.
Diversity: boards have not done enough. There should be 30% of women on boards.
"Increasingly we are voting against board members, and voting against boards."”
Nature is increasingly integrated into business decision making, with more than half of the world’s GDP dependent on nature and its services. There is no pathway to 1.5 degrees Celsius without addressing nature loss and land and ocean degradation. From assessing nature-related risks and disclosures, to investing into nature to create enduring value and sustainable growth, how are businesses pursuing nature-positive transitions as part of their competitive strategy?
Business stats you need to know
Percentage of S&P 500 companies in the US that publish ESG reports
Assets under management on the New York Stock Exchange under the UN's Principles for Responsible Investment
The number of business leaders attending Davos.
The percentage of economists who consider a recession to be likely this year.
Stakeholder capitalism: The way ahead for responsible business?
Non-financial reporting has its origins in the UN Global Compact, which calls for businesses to align on human rights, environmental, labour and anti-corruption issues. It led to the six Principles for Responsible Investment, which launched on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006 and now represents more than $70 trillion assets under management.
In the US, more than 90% of S&P 500 companies publish ESG reports according to McKinsey, in its analysis of whether ESG matters.
In the 1970s, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Klaus Schwab, advocated for a move away from traditional shareholder capitalism, where a company’s fiduciary duty is simply to maximize the return on a shareholder’s investment, to stakeholder capitalism.
In 2020, on its 50th anniversary, the Forum launched a new Davos Manifesto – a set of ethical principles to guide companies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
And, at Davos that year, the Forum launched the Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics, with support from 120 companies, to enable businesses to track their contributions towards the SDGs on a consistent basis.
The Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics Initiative is open to all Forum Partners and by driving adoption and reporting on ESG metrics, aims to catalyze greater alignment among the existing standards and support progress towards an international system for global sustainability reporting standards.
Must-reads about better business and the Forum’s impact
- The Mission Possible Partnership launched in 2019 with 30 companies and now numbers over 300. They are supercharging decarbonization across the world’s highest emitting industries and supporting this push with clear blueprints about how net zero can be reached.
- The Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, of nearly 100 CEOs of large multinational organizations, have been committed to reducing emissions by more than 1Gt annually by 2030 and believe that businesses can do more to stop the climate crisis.
- The Global Lighthouse Network is a community of manufacturers showing leadership by leveraging Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to transform factories, value chains and business models at scale, for compelling financial and operational returns.
- Gender Parity Accelerators: Benchmarking countries through the Forum’s flagship Global Gender Gap Report 2022, a multi-stakeholder coalition of global champions, and targeted rapid country-level public-private collaboration through national-level Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators.
- Hardwiring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into the New Economy: Mobilizing a global multistakeholder coalition to learn from and integrate momentum from the Forum’s Partnering for Racial Justice in Business, Disability Inclusion (The Valuable 500), and Partnership for LGBTQI+ Equality initiatives, complemented by the Social Justice Dialogue Series.
- Global Plastic Action Partnership: Engaging more than 270 global and national organizations across government, business and civil society to forge a future free from plastic pollution, with the ambition to scale its unique national partnership model of convening communities, generating action roadmaps and catalyzing coordinated action to 25 countries by 2025.