The Wire: Spring 2021The top 10 impacts from the 2021 World Economic Forum

(Estimated read time 5 minutes)

The top 10 impacts from the 2021 World Economic Forum

Each January, the World Economic Forum (WEF) brings together leaders from government, business, and civil society to debate and agree action on the globe’s most pressing issues.

With the recovery from Covid-19 and climate change at the top of this year’s agenda, here are the top 10 impacts from this year’s Davos summit.

Building a worldwide recovery from Covid-19

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first event of 2021 focused on rebuilding trust and driving a strong worldwide recovery from Covid-19.

To date, the Forum and its partners have launched more than 40 initiatives in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

For example, the WEF supports the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI), and the COVAX initiative to procure and deliver doses of a safe, effective and approved vaccine around the world – equitably and efficiently.

In December 2020, 18 chief executives from the shipping, airlines, and logistics industries, along with UNICEF and the president of the WEF, signed a charter supporting inclusive global vaccine distribution.

In addition, the WEF’s Mobility Platform has launched the Common Trust Network, a project that aims to help the rollout of a “digital passport” to help open up international travel. This will show whether a person has been tested or vaccinated in compliance with prevailing border-crossing regulations as defined by governments.

Supporting social entrepreneurs tackling Covid-19

The COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs, launched in April 2020, raises awareness of the vital role that social entrepreneurs play in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.

The Alliance supports more than 90,000 social entrepreneurs across the world who are helping an estimated 1.9 billion people by providing access to employment, food, affordable energy, and other critical services.

Ensuring racial justice in the workplace

Professionals of colour and minority ethnic backgrounds continue to face racial injustice and inequity in the workplace.

In the 62 years of the Fortune 500’s existence, there have only been 15 black CEOs and, currently, only 1% of Fortune 500 CEOs are black. 

To tackle this inequality, the Partnering for Racial Justice in Business initiative has brought together 55 companies in 13 industries with more than six million employees worldwide to drive change. Participants include Microsoft, Mastercard, Deutsche Bank, and The Coca-Cola Company.

The aim of the initiative is to set new global standards for racial and ethnic justice in business. It will coordinate a commitment to eradicating racism in the workplace and provide a platform for businesses to collectively advocate for policy change.

Fostering a multi-generational workforce

People are living and working longer than ever before. So, companies need to foster a multi-generational, inclusive workforce by adopting age-inclusive policies and empowering people to make informed, proactive decisions around their retirement.

Fifty global companies representing more than two million employees have partnered with the WEF, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and AARP to create the Living Learning and Earning Longer initiative.

Partners are collaborating on a new digital platform that employers can use to find case studies, statistics, and research to demonstrate the advantages of a multi-generational workforce.

Committing to disability inclusion across companies

With 1.3 billion people living with a disability – 17% of the global population – this year’s WEF summit sought to put disability on the business agenda.

As Caroline Casey, founder of the Valuable 500 initiative, says: “There is an inequality crisis around disability, you’re 50% less likely to get a job and you’re 50% more likely to experience poverty and that cannot be resolved in the world with just governments or charity, you need business at the table.”

More than 400 companies have joined the Valuable 500 initiative, committing to increasing their organisation’s confidence and competence in disability inclusion. The initiative provides support, tools, and best practices to embed inclusivity across their businesses.

Closing the digital gap

According to the WEF, around 3.6 billion people worldwide remain offline. This negatively impacts on the ability to reach these populations with health, education, and economic services.

At this year’s summit, the WEF launched the EDISON Alliance, the first cross-sector alliance to accelerate digital inclusion and connect critical sectors of the economy.

The vision of this new allowance is to ensure that every person can affordably participate in the digital economy.

Improving physical and mental health in cities

A rushed pace of life, crowded spaces, and tiring commutes mean that it can be difficult to keep healthy when living in a big city. The WEF is responding by working to create innovative urban partnerships to help residents focus on their physical and mental health.

The Healthy Cities and Communities initiative is examining the link between cities and healthy living. In 2021, best practices and learnings from all partner cities will be shared, allowing other cities to replicate them. Innovative approaches so far include health buses and vertically farmed vegetables.

Helping cities reach net-zero emissions

In a range of sessions at this year’s event, representatives from government, business, and civil society highlighted the approaches that cities need to take to transition to a net-zero carbon future, while ensuring system resilience, job creation and improved health.

Nine cities including Stockholm, Buenos Aires, and Cape Town, as well as more than 70 organisations in ten different sectors, have come together for a new multi-year initiative: Net Zero Carbon Cities. 

In partnership with the WEF they have launched a new framework to help cities rethink urban ecosystems, ensuring that they are greener, equitable, resilient, and more efficient.

Applying technology to combat plastic pollution

A new project in Ghana, coordinated by the WEF, the Global Plastic Action Partnership, and German corporate SAP, is creating a group of more than 2,000 waste pickers and measuring the quantities and types of plastic that they collect in communities and natural areas.

This data is then analysed alongside the prices that are paid throughout the value chain by buyers in Ghana and internationally. The aim is to increase transparency to ensure fair wages and more efficient recycling efforts.

Creating a global response to cybersecurity risks

The WEF says that, unless action is taken now, next-generation technology has the potential to overwhelm the defences of the global security community by 2025.

To tackle this issue, the WEF launched the Future Series: Cybercrime 2025 initiative – a joint programme of work with the University of Oxford and more than 150 global experts. 

The aim of the initiative is to share and develop research, insights, and responses to future cybersecurity risks.

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