– Aron Cramer is the president and CEO of BSR , a global business network and consultancy focused on sustainability. He is also coauthor of the forthcoming book Sustainable Excellence (Rodale 2010). The views expressed are his own. –
The 40th World Economic Forum at Davos gets underway this week in a world still groping for direction and solutions to structural changes and economic weakness that plague the global economy. Is it realistic to expect that the 2,500 people at Davos will deliver a truly sustainable economic recovery?
The disappointing outcome at Copenhagen was a powerful example of how risky it is to expect grand, global gatherings to save the world. Does that mean it’s best to keep expectations of Davos in check? Maybe not.
Davos is a place where influential government, business, and civil society leaders gather to create new solutions to vexing problems. It is, in its own elite way, more representative of the 21st century world than the summits that rely on formal treaties. You could say that Davos, with its informal opportunities for connections, is a social networking site in the snow, while Copenhagen, with its formal communiqués, is more like the Congress of Vienna.
In proper web 2.0 fashion, much of the goings-on are user generated, organized by participants outside the official program. And by looking at what’s happening at the “off-piste” meetings and events, it’s easy to see that sustainability is at the core of this 40th Davos.
It is precisely the combination of the official and unofficial agenda at Davos that has the potential to contribute to sustainable prosperity—especially if it can deliver systemic redesign, spark innovation for sustainability, and leverage the power of the network it has assembled.