Davos Man turns 40

January 21, 2010

Davos Man2 Many happy returns or midlife crisis?

The annual talkfest in the Alps records its 40th birthday this year but the rich and powerful will hardly be in celebratory mood as problems pile up in the post-crisis world.

How to withdraw the trillions of dollars in stimulus that helped the world avoid a rerun of the Great Depression, without spooking markets all over again?

What to do in the face of the world’s lukewarm response to the hot topic of climate change?

How to deal with an ascendant China striding out with a new confidence on the world stage and ready to clash with the West over issues such as Google?

For ‘Davos Man’ — and 85% of participants at the World Economic Forum are still men — these are testing times.

The forum certainly embraces debate but at its heart is a belief in market economics, individualism and power of globalised business to be a force for good. In the wider world, though, the grumbles are growing louder and the WEF’s own research suggests public patience with big business is running out.

A survey of 130,000 respondents on Facebook showed only one quarter believe  large, multinational companies apply a values-driven approach to their business — a finding that, in Davos-speak, points to an increasingly uncomfortable “trust deficit”.

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