No, this year's gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos was not like any other, says DW's Manuela Kasper-Claridge. She's seen business leaders heeding the call for a radical shift toward sustainability.
We've had enough talking, let's finally act. Never before in the World Economic Forum's 50-year history have problems been addressed so openly and radically than this year. Young participants spoke of a burning planet and demanded we put out the fires before it's too late.
Those at the top feel the pressure rising from those who keep suffering under the impact of climate change, social injustice and a lack of education. A rethinking process needs to start in cities, countries, at banks, pension funds and industry as a whole.
The founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, who's not really been known for radical demands, sent a personal and urgent letter to hundreds of participants, including representatives of big corporations, asking them to pledge to cut CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 at the latest.
Small steps can add up to something big
Schwab was asking for concrete measures. Even US President Donald Trump, who has long denied climate change, heeded the call and said the US would join the 1t.org initiative under which 1 trillion new trees are to be planted over the next 10 years globally. You may consider this to be a case of doing things for the sake of doing things as these trees will hardly be able to save the climate as we know it, but the initiative is part and parcel of a larger package of measures.
The aim is to arrive at more sustainability and to stop squandering precious resources. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it in Davos, "climate protection is a question of survival," thus echoing the words of young climate activist Greta Thunberg.
It was with a surprisingly high degree of humbleness that business leaders reacted to such warnings in Davos. "Yes, we hear you," they said, "and yes, we're willing to act."
A paradigm shift
The world's largest asset management firm, BlackRock, announced a radical shift in its strategy, saying it would no longer invest in companies that were leaving a negative ecological footprint. US software giant Microsoft and German industrial conglomerate Siemens said they hoped to become "climate-neutral" by 2030.
Additionally, Swiss multinational food giant Nestle said it would spend $2 billion (€1.8 billion) in environmentally friendly packaging. The money to be allocated to such measures is money well spent as executives have realized. After all, if our planet is destroyed and people are being deprived of what they need to live, nobody wins.
Sustainability is key to our future — and the powerful in Davos have finally gotten the memo. That's the amazing result of this year's gathering.