Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways From Davos 2020

Key Takeaways From Davos 2020

The theme of this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020, which took place on 21–24 January in Davos, Switzerland and convened more than 3,000 global leaders from politics, government, civil society, academia, was “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” While many of the captains of industry who gather in this snowy alpine village have long held the notion that “the business of business is business” the conversation this year focused on purpose beyond profit. There was a big focus on sustainability. Other topics on the agenda in Davos included the potential of quantum computing, the rise of digital currencies and the need for companies to move away from passwords to using new types of authentication.


On January 21, during the annual meeting, the chief executive officers of many of the world’s largest companies expressed support for aligning on a core set of metrics and disclosures in their annual reports on the non-financial aspects of business performance such as greenhouse gas emissions and strategies, diversity, employee health and well-being and other factors that are generally framed as Environmental, Social and Government (ESG) topics.

 Though business leaders increasingly see the topics of ESG and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as important to long-term business value creation, lack of comparable ESG reporting in mainstream reports hinders the meaningful benchmarking of sustainable business performance by investors and society, says the Forum. The Forum’s International Business Council discussed a proposal prepared by the Forum in collaboration with the Big Four accounting firms — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC — titled Toward Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation. The proposal recommends a set of core metrics and recommended disclosures. The intent is for the metrics to be reflected in the mainstream annual reports of companies on a consistent basis across industry sectors and countries.

The proposed metrics and recommended disclosures have been organized into four pillars that are aligned with the SDGs and principal ESG domains. They are:

  • Principles of Governance
  • Aligned with SDGs 12, 16 and 17, “principles of governance” focuses on a company’s commitment to ethics and societal benefit
  • Planet
  • Aligned with SDGs 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 and 15, “planet” looks at the themes of climate sustainability and environmental responsibility
  • People
  • Aligned with SDGs 1,3, 4, 5 and 10, “people” examines the roles human and social capital play in business
  • Prosperity
  • Aligned with SDGs 1, 8, 9 and 10, “prosperity” focuses on business contributions to equitable, innovative growth

The First Neutral Blockchain Traceability Platform

The World Economic Forum also announced what it says is “the first neutral and public traceability platform” capable of visualizing blockchain-based supply chain data from multiple companies and sources. It aims to help businesses across industries respond to consumer demands for ethical and environmentally friendly products. To date, companies have self-published such data or relied on blockchain solution providers to do so. The pilot platform resulting from this initiative, however, can ingest blockchain-based data from multiple sources and visualize it on a neutral site.

 It was created in collaboration with a dedicated group of champions comprised by Everledger, Lenzing Group, TextileGenesis™ and the International Trade Center. The International Trade Center, a UN entity with universal membership by mandate, has hosted it via its Sustainability Map ( In this way, the ITC says it can assure all parties that their data will not be shared externally, and that sensitive data can be hosted at UN data centers to benefit from UN neutrality, immunities and privileges.

It was made clear during the annual meeting that those companies that claim to be supporting a reduction of emissions will be called out if their actions do not correspond to their pledges. Since the groundbreaking Paris summit on climate change in 2015, 24 global banks have invested $1.4 trillion in the fossil fuel industry even if they claim to be supporting net zero initiatives, according to Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International. Greenpeace’s report, It’s the Finance Sector, Stupid, published during the annual meeting, puts the blame for the climate emergency at the feet of the banks, insurers and pension funds that participate in Davos. The report adds that $1 trillion could buy 640GW of solar power, more than the current global capacity.

Rahmyn Kress, founder of HenkelX, an open innovation platform that is designed to to help industrial players become more innovative and adopt disruptive business models, urged leaders to heed the Forum’s call to action during a speech at an event in Davos organized by Futur/io. “The business leaders, heads of state, industrialists and corporate community must realize the urgency to tackle the SDGs through innovation and sustainable investments and focus on building industry standards for new technologies to emerge on a solid backbone,” said Kress. “Only if we start working together will we achieve success leading to a more desirable future for the generations to come.”

Kress urged leaders in Europe and elsewhere to “start investing in the future, entrepreneurship and innovation. Be part of building new talent for the future and a stronger economy, act with stewardship and as a role model on topics such as diversity.”

Corporate-Startup Collaboration To Reduce Pollution

A number of the Forum’s Technology Pioneers invited to this year’s meeting leveraged the opportunity to discuss ways of reducing pollution with established industries. Among them was Photanol, a Dutch scale-up which is developing a way to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals with sunlight. The aim is to provide a sustainable alternative for petroleum-based and sugar-derived products while reducing the amount of Co2 in the atmosphere. The company is in talks with potential clients about using its technology to replace lactic acides in creams and shampoos, to make biodegrable yogurt containers and to produce bio-based detergents. Eventually the same technology could be used to make biofuels. Another of the 2019 pioneers, Israeli startup TIPA, has developed fully compostable flexible packaging that can do the same job as polyethene and polypropylene, the most common forms of conventional plastic, without polluting the environment. Its patent-protected film can be produced using the same machinery as conventional plastic packaging, enabling traditional manufacturers to go green.

Batteries and Sustainable Energy Transition

At the annual meeting 42 organizations, including businesses from mining, chemicals, battery, automotive and energy industries, representing annual revenue of close to a trillion dollars, along with international organizations and global NGOs, agreed on 10 guiding principles for the creation of a sustainable battery chain by 2030. They include maximizing the productivity of batteries, enabling a productive and safe second life use, circular recovery of battery materials, ensuring transparency of greenhouse gas emissions and their progressive reduction, prioritizing energy efficiency measures and increasing the use of renewable energy, fostering battery-enabled renewable energy integration, high quality job creation and skills development, eliminating child and forced labour, protecting public health and the environment and supporting responsible trade and anti-corruption practices, local value creation and economic diversification.


During the annual meeting the Forum launched what it calls the Reskilling Revolution, an initiative to provide one billion people with better education, skills and jobs by 2030. Founding governments include Brazil, France, India, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, UAE and the US. Business partners include PwC, Salesforce, ManpowerGroup, Infosys, LinkedIn, Coursera Inc. and The Adecco Group

Together, founding partners’ initiatives and coalitions already signed up to Reskilling Revolution have the capability of reaching 250 million people worldwide, according to the Forum. Founding business pledges include:

  • The Adecco Group aims to support 5 million workers through upskilling and reskilling globally by 2030. The Group’s General Assembly business will play a key role as a founding member of the Skills Consortium of online training and learning providers, as part of the Reskilling Revolution initiative. The Adecco Group Foundation will contribute as founding partner to the HR Valley initiative — a hub of human capital management learning.
  • Coursera Inc. will be a data partner and a founding member of the Skills Consortium of online training and learning providers hosted by Reskilling Revolution. It has committed to upskilling 10 million global workers by 2030 in high-demand domains of Data Science, Technology, Business and Soft skills.
  • Infosys is expanding computer science and maker education to K-12 students and teachers across the US, especially among under-represented communities, and will become a founding member of a Skills Consortium of online training and learning providers hosted by Reskilling Revolution.
  • LinkedIn will be a data partner for the Reskilling Revolution initiative.
  • ManpowerGroup’s MyPath is enabling hundreds of thousands of people to access high-growth roles by providing accelerated upskilling, on-the-job training and certification, transforming the role of the recruiter to become talent agents, experts in assessment, data and coaching so workers receive the guidance they need for future roles.
  • PwC and its New World. New Skills. programme will deploy skills to support public-private collaborations through the Reskilling Revolution. It will also help clients prepare their workforces for the digital world, upskill each of its 276,000 people and scale up its community programmes, particularly in areas where there is an acute need.
  • Salesforce has committed to help train 1 million people with relevant skills and reach 10 million active users on Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform, within the next five years. Through workforce development initiatives including Trailhead Military, FutureForce and the Pathfinder Program, all powered by Trailhead, anyone can skill-up to learn in-demand skills and earn credentials to land a top job in tech.

Participating international and civil society organizations include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Generation Unlimited, a global multisector partnership created to meet the urgent need for expanded education, skill development and employment opportunities for young people aged 10–24; The Education Commission, chaired by Gordon Brown, is committing to support the Reskilling Revolution through teacher workforce, schools and education finance transformation and the NGO iamtheCODE, which said it will aim to enable ten million women and girls as coders worldwide by 2030.The United Arab Emirates will provide seed funding to launch the Reskilling Revolution platform.

The World Economic Forum also released a report during the annual meeting entitled, Jobs of Tomorrow: Mapping Opportunity in the New Economy, . The report, which was produced with the help of LinkedIn, Coursera and Burning Glass Technologies, maps seven emerging professional clusters and the 96 fastest-growing jobs within them.


Quantum computing was a big topic this year. No company wants to fall behind when a technology shift transforms industry. Yet, there are enough unknowns about quantum computing and enough fundamental scientific riddles to solve that no one can say for certain when it might be ready to make an impact.

So how will quantum computing change business? Which sectors will be impacted first? What should every executive know about the technology and what should they be doing to prepare? Participants in a panel on the potential of quantum computing at the Forum’s annual meeting 4 moderated by The Innovator’s Editor-in-Chief Jennifer L. Schenker, tried to answer those questions.

The first impact of quantum computing capabilities is likely to be felt in the businesses that are dependent on simulation of quantum mechanical processes, such as materials, chemicals and scientific research, says panelist Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist and David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas at Austin.

That alone will likely have a monumental impact on society. “Think of it as the ability to turn on a new telescope into nature,” he says.

But businesses need to manage their expectations The potential of quantum computing is significant but there are major challenges to unlocking its value.

For more on quantum computing please click on the PDF of our Davos issue on our website:


The Forum issued a call to action, calling on companies to work together to find a way to safely transition away from passwords.

Cyber attacks are set to cost the global economy $2.9 million every minute in 2020 and some 80% of these attacks are password-related. Knowledge-based authentication — whether with PINs, passwords, passphrases, or whatever we need to remember — is not only a major headache for users, it is costly to maintain. For larger businesses, it is estimated that nearly 50% of IT help desk costs are allocated to password resets, with average annual spend for companies now at over $1 million for staffing alone.

“Better authentication practices are not just possible they are a necessity.” ” said Adrien Ogee, Project Lead, Platform for Shaping the Future of Cybersecurity and Digital Trust, World Economic Forum.

The Forum issued a report, produced in collaboration with the FIDO Alliance, that introduces five top passwordless authentication technologies, ready for implementation by global companies. They are biometrics, behavioural analytics, zero-knowledge proofs, QR codes and security keys.

However, the Forum says, there is a need to build the right data governance model and framework at a senior leadership level, to ensure that solutions adopted protect data privacy.

(For more on the death of passwords please click on the PDF of our Davos issue on our website:

The World Economic Forum Centre for Cybersecurity also brought together a group of leading ISPs and multilateral organizations to develop new ways to protect and prevent cyber attacks from reaching the largest number of Internet users.. Following a year of development and testing, four actionable principles were identified as successful in preventing malicious activities from getting “down the pipes” to consumers, set out in a new report: Cybercrime Prevention: Principles for Internet Service Providers. BT, Deutsche Telekom, Du Telecom, Europol, Global Cyber Alliance, Internet Society, Korea Telecom, Proximus, Saudi Telcom, Singtel, Telstra, ITU endorsed these principles, helping to protect up to 1 billion consumers in 180 countries, according to the Forum.


On Friday, as the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos was coming to an end, the Forum announced that it is forming a Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance. The initiative brings together leading companies, financial institutions, government representatives, technical experts, academics, international organizations, NGOs and members of the Forum’s communities on a global level.

Earlier in the week the Forum announced the Forum and a community of over 40 central banks, international organizations, academic researchers and financial institutions have created a policy-maker toolkit to help central banks evaluate, design and potentially deploy central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).The Forum is convening a global community of central banks from both emerging and developed economies to exchange best practice and learn about how CBDCs work. CBDCs are digitalized instruments issued by the central bank for payments.

For more on CBDCs please click on our news story and the PDF of our Davos issue by going to our Home page.

About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.