Davos Notebook

Making the business case for a healthy workforce

The role that today’s workplace plays in health and well-being is often debated. People spend much of their time at work, and wellness at work matters. Employers generally find that healthy employees contribute to business success, but the exact quantitative relationship between improvements in employee health and corresponding improvements in employee productivity and engagement remains elusive.

At the same time, employees around the globe are increasingly subject to non-communicable diseases – primarily cancer, heart and chronic pulmonary diseases, and diabetes. Many such diseases have their root in obesity or tobacco use, and thus to a large extent are preventable. Worldwide, non-communicable diseases cause an estimated $2 trillion in losses each year in economic activity, as well as the premature deaths annually of 18 million people still in their productive years. That’s why the World Health Organizations tags such non-communicable diseases as “the world’s biggest killer.”

For the past two years, the Workplace Wellness Alliance has been tackling the problem. Triggered by a call to action during the 2010 World Economic Forum, this consortium began with 13 companies and now has more than 100 major global employers representing 4.5 million employees worldwide, all dedicated to ensuring that – regardless of country or industry – optimum employee wellness is a priority in the workplace.

As the consortium has grown in size, so has its influence. In fact, the corporate social responsibility newswire CSRwire recently named the rapid growth of the Workplace Wellness Alliance as a “Top 10 CSR Moment of 2011.”

Specifically, the Alliance is helping establish a global standard of wellness – through metrics and best practices contributed by its member companies – to improve workforce health and productivity. Already, it has collected homogeneous health metrics from more than 150,000 employees across 20 global companies. These will help establish a measurable global workplace health baseline and provide the structure, tools and processes essential to maximize efforts against chronic diseases. It also has established a database of real-life case studies that describe successful workplace wellness programs.

George Soros on what the 2012 election means for Wall Street and why he’s a traitor to his class

YouTube Preview Image

The following is an excerpt of an interview between Reuters Global Editor-at-Large Chrystia Freeland and investor George Soros.

Chrystia Freeland: I’d like to turn now, if we may, to the United States, where politics and the economy are also quite volatile. You were a very early supporter of President Barack Obama. What report card do you give him now?

George Soros: Well, look, either you’ll have an extremist conservative, be it Gingrich or Santorum, in which case I think it will make a big difference which of the two comes in. If it’s between Obama and Romney, there isn’t all that much difference except for the crowd that they bring with them. And that’s not very encouraging on either side because Obama’s administration is a bit exhausted — a lot of the talent has left — and the Republicans would have to, or a Republican candidate would have to, bring in probably an extremist vice-president.

George Soros on Germany’s view of the Euro Zone crisis and the future of Italian bonds

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

The following is an excerpt of an interview between Reuters Global Editor-at-Large Chrystia Freeland and investor George Soros.

Chrystia Freeland: With me now is George Soros, the legendary investor, philanthropist, and I think we’re allowed to call you a philosopher as well, Mr. Soros. What do you think? Do you accept that title?

George Soros: Yes. I would like to.

Chrystia Freeland : Can you enlighten us a little bit more about the German thinking, because Germany after all has done pretty fantastically with the German economy. And Germany has more at stake in the survival of Europe than any other country.

The problem with capitalism is democracy

The rich and powerful at Davos debated capitalism today with a defense that invoked Winston Churchill’s famous dictum on democracy. “Democracy,” Churchill told the House of Commons, “is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Carlyle Group Managing Director David Rubenstein suggested in his historical comparison is that capitalism is not perfect but it’s the best we’ve got.

While the Time Davos panel, entitled “Is 20th century capitalism failing 21st century society?” acknowledged a desire to reduce inequality, there was a shrug of resignation about the way forward and an absence of solutions.

Let’s end world hunger

Last year was a milestone year for raising awareness and advancing a global dialogue about the challenge of doubling food production by 2050 to combat hunger and malnutrition and meet the needs of a fast-growing population. Recent attention paid to the birth of the 7 billionth human on earth did much to help drive this global conversation. But looking ahead to 2012 and beyond, our challenge – in fact our imperative – must be to translate this momentum into action.

In 2000, the United Nations member states, together with international organizations, challenged the world to come together to address the Millennium Development Goals, first among them being the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. We now have but three short years remaining to meet these goals. While much has been debated about the analytics and measurements driving the goals themselves, the simple, incontestable fact is that to thrive — and in many cases to survive — we as a global society must address poverty and hunger.

The two problems are inextricably linked. And we must come together – CEOs and NGOs, those focused on increasing productivity and those focused on environmental sustainability – if we are to have any hope of being successful.

Wipro Chairman Azim Premji

Azim Premji, billionaire chairman of Indian outsourcing giant Wipro Ltd, tells Chrystia Freeland that despite conventional wisdom, China may not be a safer investment bet than India.

This is an excerpt of a full interview conducted at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Look for the complete interview on our Davos page.

from Mohamed El-Erian:

Davos at a distance

I’ve never been to Davos, despite attempts by many over the years to persuade me to go. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that it is a special event for many people, and for many reasons. It is anchored by wide-ranging and engaging agendas, and participants get to mingle with a global cornucopia of important people. It is also the place to see and be seen for heads of state, politicians, academics, thought-leaders, media pundits, CEOs, and movie stars.

The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in that intimate setting remains one of the year’s hottest tickets, but its organizers want their event to be much more than what it currently is—a big, prestigious talk-shop. They want it to influence policy at the national, regional, and global levels.

Yet, over the years, and in the context of an increasingly unsettled and uncertain world, Davos has not had much impact.

from Felix Salmon:

Chris Hayes on fractal inequality at Davos

Women on top — more quotas, please

I was in the lobby of the Steigenberg Belvedere waiting for my husband yesterday but there was nowhere to sit. Looking around I saw a Davos Wife  resting on a crowded stairway. I joined her and, of course, we struck up a conversation about Women at Davos. I could tell by her comfy snow boots she had been coming for years.

She explained to me that I had it all wrong. Women are at not the bottom of the ladder at Davos but in fact are the ones who make it work. Here is why: speakers are invited so that they can be on panels but the businessmen come so they can take meetings and do deals.

“The World Economic Forum produces all this content but needs to create an audience for the invited speakers,” she said. “The women who come are equal to their husbands and equal in drive and so they self select.” Since they aren’t given a role in the conference they have nothing to do but go to the panels. That’s why the audiences for the sessions on health, arts, science and, to some extent philanthropy, are largely made up of Davos Wives.  Davos would not function without these women.

What is the Davos optimism based on? – Strategy head

Mark Spelman, Global Head of Strategy at Accenture, stopped by the Davos town library (our WEF headquarters) to talk about what he believes have been the key developing themes at this year’s meeting.

In this first video, Spelman talks about key growth trends and the reasons behind the sense of ‘cautious optimism’ at Davos 2011.

“If 2010 was really about stability in the global economy, I think 2011 is all about the pace of global recovery,” he says.