Navigating Davos 2024: Key Insights for Board Members

The 2024 Davos Agenda, a pivotal gathering of global leaders during January 16 to 19, is marked by pressing topics that range from climate change to the advancements in artificial intelligence. This year’s theme, “Rebuilding Trust” acknowledge the need to rebuild faith in light of global challenges. This blog post aims to provide board members with an overview of the key themes of this year’s Davos meeting, with pointers to articles, reports and live streamed sessions,  and highlighting the implications and strategic considerations for corporate governance and leadershipincluding transparency, consistency, and accountability.

Davos can be followed in several different ways, and some sessions are shared live, as the ones recommended below, you can follow streamed sessions here.

A short introduction by Ian Bremmer:

Understanding the Global Economic Landscape

At Davos 2024, the global economic landscape is characterized by a mixture of emerging challenges and opportunities. Key topics include the impact of ongoing geopolitical tensions, the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the integration of groundbreaking technologies into the global economy. Discussions will also cover shifts in global trade patterns, the dynamics of inflation and interest rates, and the need for sustainable economic practices in response to climate change.

The discussion will evolve around the economy uncertainty. As half of the economist anticipate the economy to weaken and 70% expect geoeconomics fragmentation to accelerate, as found in this just published WEF article Economic Outlook 2024 , with more details found in the WEF 2024 Chief Economist Outlook Report

The role of board members in adapting to these economic shifts:
Board members play a crucial role in guiding their organizations through these uncertain economic times. They need to be proactive in understanding these global trends and their potential impacts on their businesses. This includes

  1. Risk Management and Financial Stewardship: Focus on identifying risks and maintaining financial health through diversified revenue streams and liquidity.
  2. Innovation and Adaptability: Foster a culture that embraces technological advancements and adapts to market changes.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement and Sustainability: Actively engage with stakeholders and integrate sustainability into business strategies for long-term viability.
  4. Alignment of Owners, Board, and Management. Establish and maintain a unified approach among owners, the board, and management in responding to economic changes.

Incorporating these strategies will help board members guide their organizations effectively through the complexities of the current global economic landscape.

Some key Livestreamed Davos Sessions on Economy include

Jan 18 14-14.45 CET No Recovery without trade and investment

Jan 19 11-12 CET The Global Economic Outlook

Climate Change and Sustainability: A Board’s Imperative

The Davos 2024 agenda places significant emphasis on addressing climate change and promoting sustainability. Key discussions focus on advancing global efforts towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals, transitioning to renewable energy, and investing in sustainable technologies.  Climate disasters caused 2022 global economic losses of 275 BUSD. Climate adaption and resilience can be enhanced through measuring the cost benefits of climate adaption initiatives, as shared in this WEF article on  Climate Resilience Adaption.     More background can be found in WEF 2024 Risk Report.

The role of boards is to ensure integration of sustainability into strategy:

  1. ESG Education and Integration: Educate board members on sustainability best practices and emphasize ESG metrics for risk management and decision-making.
  2. Strategic Alignment and Stakeholder Engagement: Ensure alignment of sustainability with business strategy and engage stakeholders for collaborative implementation.
  3. 3. Sustainable Innovation and Policy Advocacy: Ensure investment in sustainable technologies and advocate for supportive regulatory environments.

For boards, engaging with climate change and sustainability is no longer optional but a business imperative that requires strategic focus and integration into all aspects of corporate governance.

Some key Livestreamed Davos Sessions on Climate include:

The WEF Global Risk Report

an 17 11.30 CET New Apps for Climate Adaption  

Jan 17 14.30 CET Climate and Nature: A Systemic Response Needed

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation

The Davos 2024 discussions around AI and digital transformation highlights advancements in machine learning, the integration of AI in various sectors such as healthcare, finance, and manufacturing, and the impact of AI on the workforce. Emphasis is placed on the ethical implications of AI, data privacy concerns, and the need for global standards and regulations in AI development and use.

Leaders will discuss the challenges and opportunities of operationalizing AI as these five leaders in this recent WEF article , and the challenges regarding cyber risks is outline in the WEF 2024 Global Cybersecurity Outlook

Boardneeds to take Leadership in AI Integration, Cyber and Ethics Management:

  1. 1. Stakeholder Engagement and Continuous Learning: Involve stakeholders in AI discussions and stay updated on AI developments, promoting ongoing board education in this rapidly evolving field.
  2. 2. Understanding and Strategic Integration: Boards should recognize AI’s potential to transform business models, educate themselves on AI technologies, and establish clear governance for AI implementation.
  3. 4. Ethical Framework and Risk Management: Develop and implement an AI ethics framework, regularly assess AI- and Cyber-related risks, and ensure transparent reporting and communication on AI usage.

By focusing on these areas, boards can effectively oversee AI initiatives, ensuring they align with the company’s strategic goals and ethical standards.

Some key Livestreamed Davos Sessions on AI and Cybersecurity include:

The playbook for an AI-led Future by CNBC

Jan 17 11.30-12.00 CET Cybersecurity Futures 2030

Jan 17 16-16.30 CET AI for the Energy transition

Jan 17 18.30 -19.30 CET Open Forum: A primer on AI

Geopolitical Dynamics and Their Impact on Business

The 2024 Davos agenda covers the increasing complexity of geopolitical relations, including trade tensions, regional conflicts, and the impact of global alliances and divisions. These discussions highlight the need for businesses to be aware of and responsive to the global political climate, as it directly influences market stability, supply chains, and international business operations. Previous year was the largest ever year rise in forcibly displace people as summarized in this WEF articleand more detailed shared in the reportShaping Cooperation in a Fragmented World

The role of board members in navigating geopolitical risks and opportunities:

  1. Ensure Risk Assessment and Crisis Management: Continually assess geopolitical risks, and maintain robust crisis management plans for quick and effective responses to geopolitical events.
  2. Guide for Strategic Flexibility and Ethical Operations: Develop adaptable strategies to handle geopolitical changes, ensuring ethical and compliant operations in all regions.
  3. Make Informed Decision-Making: Stay informed on global political developments, leveraging expert insights for strategic decisions and minimizing potential impacts on the business.

By actively engaging with these strategies, board members can better navigate the complexities of geopolitical dynamics, turning potential risks into opportunities for growth and stability.

Some key Livestreamed Davos Sessions on Geopolitical risks include:

Jan 16 10:00 CET The Global Cooperation Barometer

Jan 16 17:30 CET Protecting Democracy against Bots and Plots

Jan 17 10.15 CET Middle East Conflict: What is the Endgame? 

 Innovation and Business Model Evolution

Davos 2024 emphasizes the critical role of innovation in driving economic growth and addressing global challenges. Key focus areas include the acceleration of digital transformation, the importance of sustainability in innovation, and the emergence of new business models in response to technological advancements. For companies, this underscores the need to embrace innovative practices not just for competitive advantage, but also for long-term sustainability and adaptability.

This WEF article shares how private businesses can contribute to important scientific advances with Carlsberg Foundation as example, and how we must continue to secure long-term research-intensive innovation. More innovation insight can be found in WEF Top ten emerging technologies report

The board’s role in fostering a culture of innovation and overseeing business model shifts:

  1. Cultivating and Overseeing Innovation: Foster a culture that supports innovation, aligning it with strategic goals and investing in new projects and technologies.
  2. Adapting Business Models: Proactively adapt to changes driven by emerging technologies and market trends.
  3. Balancing Risk and Partnerships: Manage risks associated with innovation while leveraging partnerships to enhance capabilities and access new ideas.

By playing an active role in these areas, boards can ensure that their companies not only keep pace with the rapid rate of change but also lead in innovation and business model evolution.

Some key Livestreamed Davos Sessions on Geopolitical risks include:

Jan 16 8.15.9 CET Europes Rush to Innovate

Jan 17 10.15-11 CET TradeTechs Trillion Dollar Promise

Jan 18 16-15.30 CET Boosting Circular Innovation

Social Responsibility and Stakeholder Capitalism

At Davos 2024, the concept of stakeholder capitalism, where companies are accountable not only to shareholders but also to a broader range of stakeholders, including employees, communities, and the environment, is a central theme. The discussions emphasize the importance of corporate social responsibility in addressing social and environmental issues, highlighting the role of businesses in contributing to sustainable and equitable growth. Leaders need to build their businesses around five types of capital Financial, Human, Intellectual, Reputational and Social, learn more in this WEF article,  and more insights in the The Corporate Social Enterprise Partnerships Report

Enhancing Board Responsibility in Social Responsibility and Stakeholder Capitalism:

  1. Redefining Accountability: Expand board accountability to encompass social and environmental impacts alongside financial performance.
  2. Stakeholder Engagement and Strategy Integration: Engage with diverse stakeholders and integrate CSR deeply into corporate strategies.
  3. Transparency and Long-Term Focus: Emphasize transparent reporting on CSR and adopt a long-term perspective in decision-making, focusing on sustainability and social impacts.

By embracing these practices, boards can align their companies with the principles of social responsibility and stakeholder capitalism, thereby contributing to more sustainable and socially responsible business practices.

Some key Livestreamed Davos Sessions on Social responsibility:

Jan 16 16.15-17 CET 2024 Social Innovation award 

Jan 17 15-15.45 CET Why Social Innovation matters to business

The Future of Work: Trends and Boardroom Implications

The 2024 Davos discussions on the future of work focus on the increasing role of technology, the shift towards remote and flexible work arrangements, and the importance of reskilling and upskilling employees in the face of automation and AI. Discussions cover the need for inclusive and diverse work environments, mental health and well-being, and adapting leadership styles to a changing workforce. The green transition and major advances in AI will be the next major transformations shaping future of work as shared in this WEF articleand Integrated leadership is found to be a more effective in addressing challenges and deliver bottom lineand more detail in the report The Age of Adaptability and the Rise of Digital Jobs

Strategies for boards to adapt to changing work environments and expectations:

  1. Technology Adoption and Talent Development: Promote the use of flexible technologies and invest in continuous learning opportunities for employees.
  2. Inclusivity and Employee Well-being: Foster an inclusive work environment and prioritize employee mental health and work-life balance.
  3. Adaptive Leadership: Encourage adaptable, empathetic, and proactive leadership throughout the organization.

By focusing on these strategies, boards can effectively navigate the evolving landscape of work, ensuring their organizations remain dynamic, resilient, and competitive in the future.

Some key Livestreamed Davos Sessions on The future of Work:

Jan 17 9-9.45 CET Resilience what it means and what to do about it, incl Jim Hagemann


Illustratively the opening concert of Davos 2024 included an AI driven immersive experience by Digital Artist Refik Anadol.  

The 2024 Davos Agenda presents a complex tapestry of challenges and opportunities for board members. Understanding these themes is crucial for effective governance and strategic oversight. As board members, staying informed and proactive in these areas will not only benefit individual companies but also contribute to addressing broader societal challenges.

More insights and inspiration can be found in the report Building a Resilient Tomorrow: Concrete actions for global leaders.

Events after Davos to consider: 

Guiding insights will be shared in the Board Programs, all recently updated and with Generative AI impacts included

Boards Oversight of Sustainability for Value Creation, starting January 9, still possible to join

Boards Oversight of Responsible AI for Value Creation, starting February 27

Open events for Board Members by Digoshen and by Boards Impact Forum, including the event on January 23 in collaboration with MIT on Digital Guardianship: Enhancing Board-Level Oversight for Cyber Resilience    

Related blogposts 

Navigating Future Risk and Opportunities


This blogpost is originally shared at the blog of of Digoshen,

Events arranged by Boards Impact Forum in collaboration with World Economic Forum (Non Profit Board Network, partnering with Board Networks , INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre )  

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