Young talent to set 2022 agenda says World Economic Forum president: Business Extra

This is the decade of "talentism" rather than capitalism, the World Economic Forum’s president said as the organisation begins a week of high-level online meetings to address climate action, the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic recovery.

Borge Brende, a former Norwegian foreign minister, told the Business Extra podcast that the success of a business was now also being measured by its ability to recruit and develop young talent.

“A company is not doing better than the talent a company can recruit,” he said.

It would not be possible to attract them “if you are not complying to the highest standards when it comes to social standards, when it comes to the environment and to corruption work.”

This is a “win-win” situation said Mr Brende, which has a positive impact for both business and the planet.

The forum has been arguing for decades that companies must do more than simply focus on their shareholders and move to take a broader responsibility for employees and society at large.

“No company can, in the 21st century, just operate with a narrow mind,” Mr Brende said.

“We have seen that the most brilliant people would like, of course, to work with those companies where you also pay back to society. Everyone would like to use their knowledge and the competence they have for improving the state of the world.”

Forum founder Klaus Schwab has said that amid the rapid advancement of technology, talentism will replace capitalism as companies attract people with the right skills to help them to acquire capital.

Mr Brende suggested co-operation between the public and private sectors would also become more commonplace.

The experience of the Covid-19 crisis – and, in particular, the fast development of vaccines – shows it to be the most effective way to meet challenges and harness opportunities.

“We have seen during this pandemic that if you really want to get something done, you also have to make it into public private partnerships,” he said.

The online Davos Agenda meeting, which starts on Monday, would include 2,000 participants and special addresses by heads of states and governments, including China's President Xi Jinping, said Mr Brende.

Also scheduled to take part are Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“We are able to have the two first global messages from the new chancellor of Germany, Olaf Sholz and Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida, from Japan. We should not forget that these are the third and fourth-largest economies in the world,” he said.

Key topics for discussion this week include measures to tackle vaccine inequalities, co-operation on technology, the social contract between governments and populations, the energy transition and how to scale up climate action, as well as space exploration.

“Another one that will be incredibly important is how do we sustain inclusive economic growth, because you are not out of the woods yet when it comes to the pandemic. We are also seeing increasing debt, increasing inflation and also supply chain challenges,” said Mr Brende.

Also part of the event programme are World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Anthony Fauci, a leading US expert on infectious diseases, International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and US climate envoy John Kerry.

Officials from the Middle East region include Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology.

The forum aims to be back to holding in-person gatherings later in the year but the shift to online amid the pandemic has helped it to grow as an organisation.

“What we have seen during these two years – when we have had to run, also the World Economic Forum more as digital events and digital meetings – is that we have got more partners than before. And we have got a lot of things done also in that context,” said Mr Brende.

In this episode:

Key issues for WEF 2022 (1m 57s)

Could Covid disruption offer opportunity? (3m 00s)

Private and public sectors being brought together (4m 35s)

Companies taking more responsibility towards customers, society and the environment (7m 03s)

Davos online instead of in person (14m 05s)

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Updated: January 19, 2022, 5:22 AM