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All the Difference in Davos 2020 How Our World and Our World Leaders Are Rapidly Changing?

First Reflections from the Annual Meeting on the World Economic Forum 2020

It made all the difference to have at the heart of the 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) a revitalization of the WEF’s Global Manifesto— and a re-commitment to the principles of multi-stakeholder business values. The Manifesto reminds of the role business plays to provide for society, optimal goods and services in a free market environment. It reminds of the role business plays as a trustee of the material universe—natural resources—for future generations and as a steward of best resource management practices. The Davos Manifesto recognizes that successful and sustainable global business must operate with a social and ecological consciousness–valuing both human and natural capital, or else collapse in the wake of serial short-term decisions. There is a growing awareness that short-term, entirely profit based, commodity-driven decisions in aggregate eventually erode the human-nature foundation upon which all business enterprises with real value to exchange, stand.

“The purpose of professional management is to serve clients, shareholders, workers, and employees; as well as societies, and to harmonize the different interests of the stakeholders.” Davos Manifesto 1970

This multi-stakeholder capitalism world view was a-buzz during the Davos 2020 Annual Meeting, and was propelled forward by what some referred to as the Greta Thunberg effect—the increasing presence at Davos of diverse, fresh, youthful voices and more inclusive, socio-economically representative groups in the discussions. Certainly, many historically criticize the WEF as being an elite and exclusive group; but I believe it is becoming more and more difficult to make that claim. The content and conversations of the Annual meeting are increasingly open for online viewing and commentary. The program board for the annual meeting is becoming more and more inter-generational and multi-cultural. The Crystal Awardees celebrated at the meeting’s opening do not represent the middle-road Westerner, but are extraordinary, global, creative outliers—artists and visionaries brought into the spotlight to lead our global society through the current culture revolution. The new comprehensive strategic intelligence platform that reflects the rich and diverse ecosystem of thought leadership within the WEF community is organized in an inclusive, adaptive, organic, and highly connected way; and I imagine will continue to evolve as a highly intelligent organism…naturally intelligent.

Hindou Ibrahim with Catherine Cunningham in the EBU Studios

In my Natural Intelligence Worldwide (NIW 2020) interviews with Eurovision News and Events, our guests continued to confirm the “Spirit of Davos” becoming more awake, alert, and active in addressing the global challenges of climate, sustainability, and regeneration of wild nature in real, tangible, collective ways that promote peace and prosperity for everyone. We may not be moving far enough, fast enough yet; but we are definitely finding our feet and figuring out “how” to transition communities, countries, global development, manufacturing, transport, and trade from a purely market-based economy to a bio-based economy.

Clearly, we are betwixt and between a real economic and ecologic cultural revolution…and we feel it. The Global Competitiveness Report 2019 and the WEF Global Risk Report in 2020 reiterated the real geo-political upheaval, economic transformation, and ecological collapse we are all witnessing in our world and experiencing in our lives today. The 2020 picture in the Global Risk Report of the evolving global risks landscape featured for the first time an entire and exclusive suite of ecological concerns as top priority risks—extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, and human made environmental disasters. Whereas in 2007, the Report highlighted socio-economic concerns-corruption, oil energy, inequality and cyber attack; the 2020 Global Risk Report pointed directly to our real human fear about the destruction of our planet. Thus, Davos sessions on the ecological collapse of our world and rippling socio-political, economic impacts took center stage at this Annual Meeting. More than half of the program was dedicated to World Ecological Forum discussions, while the other half to World Economic Forum discussions—and both were linked.

Nature’s Reflection Photography 2020

Why now? Natural disasters occurring outside of their normal range of variability, intensity, scope, and frequency are becoming the new anomalous, unpredictable normal. The Australian and Amazon fires are cases in point. People are afraid. People are anxious and uncertain about the future. I am afraid. I am anxious and uncertain about the future.

Many people are also (in part due to environmental degradation) unsettled, in flux, and constantly on the migratory move. From 1990-2019 international migration increased 78%, many fleeing their homes as climate refugees. Concurrently, disparity and division among us have reached unconscionable heights, as social tensions brew—50% of the population now owns only 1% of the global wealth. Has the fortress world future scenario presented a decade ago by the Stockholm Institute as a probable pathway—now become our current reality? Is this reality also more virtual than actual? While global trade uprooted manufacturing from industrial centers of the 1990’s and international trade tensions are high; global e-trade of digital services and virtual products are now replacing every real thing. In 1970-manufacturers made up 50% of the Dow Jones—30 manufacturing companies, and only 1 technology firm, Kodak, was ranked. Now, 5 technology firms rank with 15 manufacturing firms. (Global Competitiveness Report 2020) Shifting from a consumption-based economy to a digitally driven, service-oriented economy is right on target for reducing our global natural resource footprint—decoupling economic growth from extraction, consumption, and production of electronics and things. However, such rapid transitions in the economy require us to figure out ways to regain our relationship to real nature, retain and re-train a global workforce to adapt to changes and to protect human rights. As reported by Saadia Zahid, MD (Head of Social and Economic Agendas, WEF), the top 10% of earners in 20 of the largest, most advanced emerging markets have amassed 3.5 x the earnings of the bottom 40%… and most of those bottom, service jobs (estimated 1 billion jobs) are already being affected (displaced) by exponential technology advance. Thus, inclusive innovation and re-tooling/re-skilling the workforce becomes central to good corporate leadership. Meanwhile, opportunities for re-creating carbon negative, nature-based businesses and economies following ESG principles are everywhere, and especially in the developing world, which now accounts for 15.8% of foreign economic expansion (Global Competitiveness Report 2019) and still retains the largest contiguous wild landscapes and intact shoreline, marine protected areas—albeit constantly under threat of development.

In Klaus Schwab’s interview with Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft), he invited Satya to give advice for companies on how to transform their businesses, culture, and practices in this new inclusive, green 4IR era. Here’s what Satya offered. First, re-assess and re-define your business models and growth metrics with a spirit of inclusive capitalism. Second, future proof employees and communities for a digitally driven world. Third, create new metrics, governance, KPIs (key performance indicators), and business models to include ESG (environment, social, and good governance) values. Fourth, show up to society as good global citizens. Pay your fair share of taxes and act on climate. Arguing that those business leaders who can afford to go farther-faster on the climate front, Satya announced Microsoft’s commitment toward a carbon negative business paradigm by 2030 and announced their 1 billion USD fund to get them there. Fifth, support international ethics and regulation of AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning that prioritizes and protects the privacy rights and data mining of people. And as a technology leader on AI for Good, Satya committed to continue to promote what he calls Digital Dignity in advancing not only the technological development, but more important– the applications of AI and machine learning in business. Natarajan Chandrasekaran (chair of the Board of Tata Sons), Roopa Purushothaman (chief economist at Tata), Ratan Tata, and Satya (who writes the forward) outline such a vision for digital dignity and technology for good in their new book, Bridgital Nation. In their digital world technology bridges gaps in society and empowers people to live, work, and play in a higher quality way with universal access to healthcare, finance, communication, and skills-based education. A positive future enhanced by AI and machine learning can be the scenario for the future, if we choose it. It makes all the difference when we amplify and inspire positive use cases for new technology, instead of giving the dark side bandwidth, attention, energy, and voice.

Indeed, it also makes all the difference in the world at the Forum’s annual meeting to have leadership, like Satya Nadella, make audacious, aspirational commitments that pushed the envelop of what’s possible—and inspired healthy competition among world business leaders to 10x their own commitments. While the pace and scale of commitment is not yet commensurate with the pace and scale of global change; we are waking up and the Forum is one of the best places on the planet to ignite and (seemingly overnight) scale up committed and coordinated global action on tackling climate, valuing nature, injecting ethics into technology advance, and addressing social injustice- inequity.  Hosting 3000 global thought leaders, 1700 world business leaders, 53 heads of state in bilateral discussions and larger themed forums; Davos has become over its 50 year history the safe space for essential inter-personal dialogue and discussion among public and private members to resolve conflict and build healthy alliances.

“My fascination with the stakeholder concept was rooted in my mind, stemming from my war and post-war experiences: we are always members (stakeholders) of communities, which are mutually interdependent and we should seek to resolve conflict by dialogue and cooperation and not by confrontation.” Klaus Schwab

WEF 2020

It always makes all the difference when respected thought leaders in a particular sector—like finance, champion and credibly justify a new way forward, as well, inspire others to follow. Here are some other star examples from the Forum’s finance community, which were incredibly exciting— now it’s all about execution, evaluation, and scale. Larry Fink, CEO Blackrock, now champions sustainability to be at the heart of modern finance models and acknowledges climate change as a long-term risk to all investments. He is now all about fundamentally reshaping finance to be green and climate clean. As well, Mark Carney, Bank of London, repeatedly asserted in the Green Growth Equation session that the conversation among investors has now shifted from why to how to create a transition toward a new economy that values environment-social governance (ESG) and that accounts for climate-nature risks to their portfolios. Building upon the historic UNEP Global Green New Deal program in 2008 (led by Achim Steiner, now director of UNDP) to create more jobs in green industries, Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Union) committed Europe to be the first carbon neutral continent by 2050. The plan she announced to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality for the EU was backed by a financial investment of 1 trillion USD by the European Investment Bank to completely regenerate our human urban ecosystems. The mother of seven children, Ursula von der Leyen spoke with such fire and committed force in Davos that I believe the EU under her leadership may even reach their carbon neutral goals before 2050. How? The EU Green Deal outlines an entire regeneration of our human civilization; including affordable and secure energy, optimization of energy efficiency in buildings (accounting for 40% of atmospheric carbon pollution), higher quality food and agricultural production (nearly 23% of the carbon budget), smarter transport, and zero waste public-private programs. Clearly, inclusive creation and education of these transformative plans for our society will be essential to create real, lasting, intergenerational change–as onboarding all citizens is key to our success.

Another boxcar the finance train, Dr. Guenther Thallinger (Member of the Board of Allianz) and Oliver Bate (CEO of Allianz) introduced the UN-Convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance launched at the UN Summit in September 2019 @ Davos2020. Members of this group– pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and other large asset owners made commitments to review their investment portfolios and reduce carbon emissions in future investments to net zero by 2050. Oliver announced at WEF that $2.4 trillion USD was already committed before the Annual Meeting of WEF and mid-way through the week they had grown to $ 4 trillion USD. Whereas at the beginning of the Forum, Dr. Thallinger and Oliver Bate announced Allianz’s goal to inspire the alliance to 2x their commitment by the end of their WEF presentation Oliver rhetorically questioned Allianz’s 150-year old business—whether they could think more like entrepreneurs and 10x their investment commitment. Christiana Figueres (former UNFCCC director, Mission 2020- a partner in the alliance) then responded brilliantly to my question on the direction of capital by explaining that most major Fortune 500 companies have already optimized internal operations and created efficiencies within their companies. So, corporate investors (like those within Allianz) now become mission critical for helping companies decarbonize their supply chains—where nearly 80% of the carbon pollution lives. She and others in the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance believed they could stimulate that level up II move for companies if they could get the shareholders in businesses- the investors, to embrace carbon neutrality as criteria for investment, as well, transparently measure progress. As metrics and evaluation are so central to de-risking investment and driving sustainable success; Gita Fuerer (CEO of Swiss Re Insurance) is an important part of the alliance—having also made a commitment to tracking, verifying, and reporting progress once the measurement targets and metrics were decided. My point in highlighting this particular commitment is to demonstrate that the conversation on transitioning to a new carbon neutral (and next bio-based) economy has moved from vision to action. And, it makes all the difference when the right constellation of people is represented in the room to get the job done. Excellent move…

It also makes all the difference when the right people take up the hard, mission impossible challenges, and lead with a mission possible attitude. The newly formed Mission Possible alliance @ WEF led now by Anthony Hobley (former co-chair of Carbon Tracker and respected climate lawyer) is another star example. This alliance comprised of top-drawer energy experts are going after the hard-to-abate sectors of industry- dirty coal, steel, cement, concrete, chemicals, shipping, aviation, and heavy-duty transport. In my interview, Anthony excitedly shared how innovative minds in their alliance are solving the riddle of carbon polluting Carnegie-Rockefeller- Morgan-Ford industrial growth and carbon-based transport. Can you imagine green steel? Well this group, which we will definitely continue to track through NIW-EBU podcasts—may be the narrative of the century. If this hard-to-abate group—responsible for nearly 33% of the global energy CO2 emissions and expected to double in the next decade—can get the carbon neutral (even carbon negative) mission possible narrative right; then we have a chance to reduce our global carbon emission by 50% in this century. If this group continues to attract seasoned business executives who are respected on all sides of the carbon challenge, like Andrew Liveris (former CEO Dow, Board member to Saudi Aramco), then we might succeed in more swiftly transitioning powerful energy companies from carbon-based energy producers to renewable, clean energy providers and managers. It’s an Olympian challenge and in my opinion this group and these discussions, like the Green Equation Forum and the Net Zero Investment Forum in Davos are not only necessary, but deserve our positive public will and support.

It makes all the difference, when a band of political and private interests imagine a big, bold, and brave move to address a big, bold, belligerent problem. I will lead here with only few epic examples from the forest, the fields, and the oceans, but know that there is an entire wave of Lighthouse Projects now underway to showcase new initiatives launched by WEF members. Thus, a forest of real, deep dive solutions are sprouting up around the conference, like new green shoots from the charred Australian eucalyptus groves. Thus, the Good News is that the hope of new life and regeneration may just be around the corner. We can do this!

And so it was the Forest People gathered– President Dunque of Columbia, Dominic Waughray, Managing Director of WEF, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, Hindou Ibrahim, Indigenous Women and Peoples leader, Sadghuru from India, and Jane Goodall (Roots & Shoots) announced the 1 Trillion Trees Initiative. Together, this group will respond to the planetary emergency of deforestation and the extraordinary loss of forests due to fires and other natural disasters (now exacerbated by climate change). And to be clear, this initiative is not merely about the act of planting a few random seedlings. They are about the regeneration and sustainable local management of endemic and diverse forest ecosystems and naturally intelligent human urban ecosystems with a seventh generation mindset. The initiative is grounded in the GIS mapping work and now 1 Trillion Tree lab of Tom Crowler in the ecosystem science division of ETHZ in Zurich, Switzerland where I did my PhD in forest mountain ecosystems. Small world… or as Johan Rockstrom would say—rather, we are a large, populous, resource-consuming world living now on a small planet of finite resources.

I will speak more about this truly epic initiative 1 Trillion Tree in a subsequent article and post our NIW-EBU interviews with members of this alliance (Spring 2020), but suffice to say that the 1 Trillion Tree global inititiave is part of a larger vision for expanding wild nature and integrating nature into the heart of our urban centers – weaving endemic ecosystems back into our neighborhoods. The Biodivert Cities global vision that President Dunque of Columbia is now actively promoting in his country and abroad speaks to the radical, rapid, and revolutionary regeneration of natural environments (like the Amazon) and revitalization of naturally intelligent, connected communities—happening NOW. And, important is that global citizens are part of this Human+Nature regeneration from the bottom up in inclusive ways — involving every citizen, everywhere in world cities. So while advanced energy companies like Schneider Electric and CEO pioneers like Jean-Pascal Tricoire are pushing the urban envelop on energy efficiency (EE)—challenging themselves to deliver the greenest energy efficient technologies in easy, cost-effective, integrated, and turn-key ways; we are going to bring back nature in the Biodivert movement.

Then on the agricultural front, there is a lot of earth movement also underfoot. For example, Generation Africa and DSM are focusing on education and skills, education and skills, education and skills on digital platforms to raise the quality of production, information exchange among farmers, and access of 9 million farmers to market value chains. Yara International continues to expand their plant & soil monitoring products for farmers. World leaders, like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are starting to talk about precision agriculture– ways for companies, like HPE with their Tech for Impact 2030 venture to raise the bar on quality food production in less carbon-intensive ways, relying less on artificial pesticides and herbicides and more on intelligence.

Then to the ocean shores, ambassadors for the ocean ecosystem like John Kerry (former US Secretary State), Sylvia Earle (Blue Ocean), Jim Leape (Wood’s Institute, Stanford), Peter Thomspon (UN Special Envoy to Oceans), Marc Benioff (Ocean Institute), and Enric Sala (National Geographic) announced yet another global ocean initiative to complement their efforts on ocean plastic reduction. This one focused on course-correcting illegal international fishing operations. The World Resources Institute (WRI) recently estimated that 50% of the marine resources coming to ports through illegal fishing networks are coming from the Pacific Ocean—amounting to 3.7 and 7.2 tons of fish stolen from fishers and coastal nations, totaling $21 billion USD lost. In my NIW interview with Jim Leape (coming this March 2020), he shares how the international fishing community is now using blockchain, GIS, and sensoring technology to shut down all illegal fishing operations, globally. And in a new UN Agreement- the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), countries are requested not to allow illegal fishers to dock at their ports… and now with the fishing industry embracing these technologies, they can transparently and effectively do so. (more here)

Next Steps to Further Safeguard Nature:

Continue to Push Progress- Imagine Further, Faster

It was truly heartening to see the same genuinely dedicated individuals to nature conservation and climate action in the New Deal for Nature track and dinner. Many of us have been on this journey for decades, for our entire professional careers. That said, the state of our natural world is still becoming more and more threatened every day. Although we care, we are committed, and we collaborate well now; we know we need to exponentially ramp up our incremental awareness-action efforts to create a cultural revolution. No one captured this sentiment and room tone more than Al Gore that evening at dinner in his treatise on “false hope”. He reminded us of the scale and size of the battle in front of us and that our dreams to make a positive difference on the climate-nature front have to date mostly failed or fallen far too short. Always animated in talking about the climate apocalypse, Al Gore reminded us that:

the equivalent heat of 500 Hiroshima bombs warms the planet, daily;

over 90% of that heat is graciously absorbed by the ocean; and,

one Superbowl Sunday football field of forest is destroyed-burned-degraded-deforested, daily. We have no chance to reconcile with Mother Nature unless we recreate a new human+nature narrative. We produced a film called Eye of the Future, nearly 10 years ago and it is amazing that the message, mission, and call to action is still relevant today. We should be 10x light years ahead in re-balancing our nature debt.

So, we need to remain vigilant and be aware (Beware) that today’s climate-nature clock is ticking.  Climate change is still an existential threat to humanity. The destruction of natural ecosystems is causing the disappearance of species at 1000 times the normal rate of extinction. The air, water, ocean, soil pollution is causing ecological tipping points that threaten the existence of life on earth as we know it. Meanwhile, we as humans are becoming more and more disconnected to one another emotionally, while hyper-connected virtually to machines and virtual (potentially deep faked, unreal) representations of one another. Thus, fear, anxiety, depression, and isolation continue to creep into our increasingly fragmented communities, creating great social tension, unrest, and conflict. Bottom line: We need nature.

But, be aware (Beware) 2050 clock is ticking. The time is now to live more aware– to repair our relationships to one another and to regenerate our living biosphere. We will be 11.6 billion people on the planet and 70% of us will be living in urban environments- apart from nature, but still dependent on nature for our survival. And to ensure our survival, we know that we must preserve at least 50% of the natural world (land and ocean) as sanctuaries with the ability to re-wild, regenerate. Concurrently, we will need to produce 70% more food on 25% less land; while adapting carbon negative, 100% renewable, zero waste lifestyles immediately to ensure we stay below our 1.5C + temperature threshold and balance out our carbon-nature debt—currently deep in the red.

Is a New Deal with Nature and People the last chance for humanity?

Marco Lambertini, (Director General of WWF International) and host of the New Deal for Nature and People dinner and discussion reminded us that–currently only 1% of philanthropic investment goes to protecting nature. Clearly our value proposition for the regeneration of nature and mitigation of biodiversity loss has to be stronger. We are still not quite yet speaking to the real better future we see, the new business opportunities we can harvest, the pain points and risk aversion of private and public investment… but we are beginning. We are maturing and… in the end, it all begins with heart-mind-action coherence.

On this note, the Prince of Wales spoke passionately from his heart about placing nature at the heart of a new global bio economy. And here he was clear on just how-now to do that.

  • We need the right people working together to lift the barriers for internalizing nature into our economic systems out of the way.
  • We need to reverse perverse subsidies, and adapt incentive structures.
  • We need to apply taxes and regulations to the source of carbon pollution and natural capital use.
  • We need to invest more in R&D for building a bio economy and integrating natural capital (currently valued at $24 trillion USD)
  • We need to connect investments to investible solutions that can rapidly scale. And the good news is that
  • We need to adopt common metrics and standards aligned with the Paris Climate goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to tag, to track, and to trace supply chains for companies.

We can evolve. We have many guides and maps and now the New Deal for Nature and People Manifesto, linked to the Climate Manifesto and the Davos Manifesto… time to manifesto!!!

***

Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. Rumi

In the next article, I will elaborate on Natural Intellingence and how we can awaken our natural intelligence as humans when we:

  • Live Green lifestyles
  • Recognize our uniqueness and act out of our dharma passion and purpose
  • Recognize another’s uniqueness and act out of gratitude
  • Operate from a place of unity consciousness and consideration
  • Give freely and express our love
  • Participate in Life’s natural exchange- of air, water, energy, life… just breathe.

Time to gain a greater, deeper respect for nature—appreciate our interdependency on the biosphere for our survival and change our perception of nature.

Dr. Catherine Cunningham, PhD, Natural Intelligence Media is committed to awakening Natural Intelligence in the World. We produce multimedia content — books, films, and podcasts that inspire everyone to live a happy, healthy, nature-conscious life.

Visit our Natural Intelligence Website HERE.

Listen to our Natural Intelligence Worldwide Podcast HERE.

Pre-order my Natural Intelligence by Design book HERE.

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