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Live from Davos: Beginning to meet global goals

The world has agreed global goals, so it is natural that the world’s pre-eminent business forum is debating them.

Much of the last 24 hours for the IIRC has involved a series of meetings on how corporate reporting can genuinely support the Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs).

First up was a discussion on a project led by the World Economic Forum itself on how businesses can pursue this agenda through their value chains, with extra emphasis from companies on influencing - and reporting on - their customers and suppliers.

An action plan was presented under the heading “From awareness to solutions”, which is where the International Integrated Reporting Council and our partners see ourselves.

Davos is known for partying, but it was partying for a purpose at the closing event for the two year Business Commission for Sustainable Development, late the previous night.

Its visionary Chair, Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, had kindly contributed to the IIRC’s own guide to integrated reporting and the SDGs. Mark used this week’s celebration to thank the collective efforts of a huge number of people in a jam-packed hall, for setting the course on business implementation of the SDGs.

The Commission has collected information that no fewer than 2,000 CEOs have personally read their recommendations, and that 45 per cent of companies who undertake extra-financial (including integrated) reporting, have already begun to align this to the SDGs - in full or in part.

In two years, that’s not bad going.

But the highlight of this closing event was a speech by Dr Alaa Murabit, a young woman leader and SDG Advocate from the United Nations, who chastised the (still) mostly male participants at Davos, for failing to open up access to the millennial generation and to girls in particular.

“We don’t need empowerment but your acknowledgement and, if you don’t give it to us, we will simply create our own networks and do it for ourselves,” she challenged the audience.

Gender equality has been a consistent theme in this year’s WEF, confronted by the findings of the Forum’s own “Gender Gap Report”, which actually recorded a widening of the gap this year for female economic participation.  At just 59% compared to men, it stands at the lowest level since 2008.

Deloitte’s female US Chief Executive Cathy Engelbert has been one of many here to speak out for inclusive leadership, whilst the IMF warned yesterday that the younger generation may never recover from the rising income gap with their elders.

It is this generational perspective which drives integrated reporting, women and men.

Millennials both as savers and as consumers have totally different expectations of business - and the successful businesses of the future are changing to meet them.

Finally, the big politics of yesterday was European, with leaders from Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy and France all lining up to denounce trade protectionism, with sometimes open reference to the United States.

There is much talk here of a trade war, with Washington’s decision to impose unilateral tariffs on washing machines coming, even as the gathering was underway.

President Trump arrives here later today, and his schedule shows no shortage of political and business leaders eager to meet him.

Without a washing machine, it remains to be seen how much of the dirty washing is done in public.


Richard Howitt is Chief Executive Officer of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and is blogging daily from Davos 2018 for the International Accounting Bulletin and The Accountant.

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