On the heels of COP21 in December is the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), taking place this week in Davos, Switzerland. As world leaders in business and government convene to discuss the most pressing global economic issues, social and environmental topics have taken center stage.
WEF's survey of 750 experts put climate change as the biggest threat to the global economy in 2016 – the first time the issue has catapulted to number one. The report highlights the ripple effects of climate change on critical economic factors. "Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks," says Cecilia Reyes, Zurich's chief risk officer.
As conversations at Davos continue over the weekend, many businesses and world leaders have already come to the table with solutions to the world's biggest economic threats. Here's a short roundup of commitments announced this week:
- Microsoft made a major announcement in advance of the WEF's annual meeting of its new three-part initiative to provide cloud computing resources to serve the public good. The commitment was kicked off with a $1 billion donation of Microsoft Cloud Services "to serve nonprofits and university researchers over the next three years."
- A new global campaign was launched Thursday at Davos to reduce global food waste levels by half by 2030. The campaign, dubbed Champions 12.3 after the SDG Target 12.3, was formed by a coalition of 30 leaders from business, government, UN agencies, foundations and NGOs, including food industry giants Nestle, Unilever and Tesco. Additionally, The Rockefeller Foundation separately unveiled YieldWise, a "$130 million program to tackle hunger by slashing food waste."
- Leonardo DiCaprio took the stage to accept the WEF's Crystal Award but at the same time announced a $15 million donation to environmental projects from his foundation. DiCaprio lauded leaders for the Paris agreement, but also cautioned of the "irreversible damage" of climate change if the world fails to follow through on the pact.
- Sustainability leader William McDonough unveiled the ICEhouse™ (Innovation for the Circular Economy house) in Davos this week as a place to convene leaders to discuss innovation in the circular economy. The structure has been "designed to demonstrate the positive design framework described in [McDonough's] book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, and the reuse of resources implicit in the circular economy."
The next few days will bring more conversations on how to advance economic conditions on a global scale, but one theme of the event is already abundantly clear. World leaders recognize the inextricable link between social and environmental progress and economic prosperity, and many are taking a leading role in creating long-term solutions to address these pressing global issues.