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Business

Reconciliation, dialogue drive World Economic Forum founder Schwab

Klaus Schwab has invited economists, politicians and intellectuals to the Alpine resort town Davos since 1971. As founder of the World Economic Forum, Schwab says the meetings are about improving the state of the world.

Klaus Schwab gestures at the World Economic Forum

Schwab has made corporate responsibility part of the WEF

The president and founder of the World Economic Forum of global business, political and intellectual decision-makers, Klaus Schwab, designed the annual meeting in Davos to tone down capitalism's greed and determine ways to regulate the world economy.

The meetings began when Schwab, then a business school professor, invited some 400 people to the Swiss Alps for the European Management Forum in 1971. The conference's success led to its expansion into the current World Economic Forum (WEF). Its annual five-day meeting attracts some 2,500 guests.

General view of the snow covered town of Davos

The Alpine village Davos has hosted the leaders' conference for decades

The conference has developed into a way for CEOs, presidents and professors rub shoulders at the world's most well-known networking event.

Born in Germany in 1938 to parents of Swiss origin, Schwab has said seeing the effects of war in one region and peace across a border in another country played an important role in his life.

Identifying issues the create international tension

"The legacy of the wartime situation had a huge impact on me," he told the WEF's website. "I became very interested in reconciliation and dialogue. We had to create a new Europe based on these two things."

Schwab, who two doctoral degrees, one in mechanical engineering and one in economics, added that he wanted to create a forum that identifies the issues that create international tension.

The WEF conference hall is empty ahead of a conference

The WEF has expanded to include other global forums

"Our role is not to make decisions in Davos, but to describe problems and point out solutions to the problems, some of which have not even been defined," he said.

Schwab's energies have expanded beyond the WEF. He and his wife, Hilde, set up the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship in 1998 to encourage sustainable organizations with a social purpose. He also created The Forum of Young Global Leaders in 2005, which brings together hundreds of people under 40 who represent the future of international business and politics.

As an economics professor at the University of Geneva, Schwab published his "stakeholder theory," which calls for companies to serve all entities connected to their enterprise rather than only shareholders.

"I believe fundamentally in the inter-relationship between economic development and social progress," Schwab said. "I feel that governments today alone cannot address global challenges nor can business alone and nor can non-governmental organizations."

Author: Sean Sinico

Editor: John Blau

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