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Companies at Davos Urged to Meet ESG Expectations after the Pandemic

February 08, 2021

Global government and business leaders will take part in the World Economic Forum’s online ‘Davos Agenda’ between 25 and 29 January, in place of the usual annual meeting at the snowy resort of Davos in Switzerland.  At this year’s event, more pressure is expected to be placed on companies to act ethically and make a positive contribution to the world as it rebuilds from the effects of COVID-19. Technologies that enable enhanced due diligence and adverse news monitoring can certainly play a role in supporting Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles.

Over the five days of virtual talks and panel discussions, an analysis of the conference agenda suggests that key themes will include:

  • Driving "responsible industry transformation and growth”. This will include a focus on the role of companies in making the world a better place to live in after COVID-19 by committing to ESG principles and demanding ethics from their third parties and suppliers.
  • Harnessing new technologies. This will include companies’ use of AI and big data to find new insights and opportunities to benefit society.
  • The role of companies in working with the public sector to tackle “critical issues” such as COVID-19 vaccination, job creation and climate change. Companies are increasingly expected to play an active role in solving society’s problems. Those who do will also attract customers, investors, and

The participant list will include many heads of state and government, including heads of state including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and French President Emmanuel Macron. It will also be attended by:

  • International organisations.
  • CEOs of businesses from around the world.
  • Company executives responsible for AI initiatives, as well as ethics and corporate social responsibility.

ESG expectations for companies in the ‘Great Reset’

The overarching theme of this year’s event is “The Great Reset”. The World Economic Forum (WEF) says that the pandemic has demonstrated that no single institution can address the economic, environmental, social, and technological challenges facing the world. The solution to rebuild the economy and society after COVID-19 lies in partnership between governments, companies, and civil society.

The WEF said: “The time to rebuild trust and to make crucial choices is fast approaching as the need to reset priorities and the urgency to reform systems grow stronger around the world.” The WEF’s founder, Klaus Schwab, said the aim of the Davos Agenda is to "restore trust" in business, government, civil society and beyond.

What does that mean for companies? There are two main lessons:

  • Develop a purposeful approach to doing business. Now more than ever, people want to work for, buy from and invest in companies that benefit society. A positive commitment to ESG will make it more likely that companies survive and thrive in the long term and make sustainable profits.
  • Manage risks to retain trust of customers, consumers, investors, and regulators, third parties. Companies that fail to demonstrate purpose will suffer, and none more so than those found guilty of bribery and corruption. Companies must ensure have access to relevant data, such as ultimate beneficial ownership data, to gain oversight of the activities of their third parties and suppliers, and root out any evidence of bribery, corruption, or human rights abuses.