Five Issues to Watch Post-Davos

The World Economic Forum (WEF) hosted an off cycle Annual Meeting on 22–26 May, after the event was held virtually in 2021 and postponed several times due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

By Kate Olsen

The annual gathering of world leaders, CEOs and global influencers typically occurs in January, against a backdrop of the snowy Alps. This year, spring temperatures and lots of rain made for a very different Davos. A few highlights:

  • Anxiety about the state of the global economy and the war in Ukraine overshadowed the agenda. Economic uncertainty resulting from rising inflation, slowing growth, trade and supply chain disruptions and the potential of a global food crisis offered up a somber and gloomy mood — overshadowing conversations about climate, healthcare and pandemic collaboration.
  • The economic picture was punctuated with the release of Oxfam’s brief on wealth inequality, which found that “for every new billionaire created during the pandemic — one every 30 hours — nearly a million people could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2022 at nearly the same rate.”
  • Political and business leaders from Russia and China — which have been highly visible in recent years — were noticeably absent this time.
  • Only one G20 head of government — Chancellor Scholtz of Germany — attended in person.
  • Fewer A-List CEOs attended this year and many who did expressed concern for how their business would perform in today’s uncertain economic landscape.

Our experts are tracking five trends from the Davos dialogue with implications for global companies navigating issues and reputation at the intersection of geopolitics, capital markets and environment social and governance (ESG).

As many as a third of the Annual meeting main stage sessions were related to climate change, demonstrating how climate has become central to the WEF agenda.

De-globalization headwinds test the model.

The rise of nationalist protectionist forces — exacerbated by the pandemic response and the war in Ukraine — are testing the limits of global cooperative models and dampening hopes that shared economic prosperity would unify the world in some central way. Competing nation-first priorities, values and interests are hastening the crystallization of a new post-neoliberal world order with implications for trade relations, global supply chains, digital transformation, talent sourcing and stakeholder engagement.

Energy and food security front and center.

The twin crisis of energy and food insecurity are further challenging the world’s ability to rebound from the impacts of the pandemic. The war in Ukraine compounds forces already at play, including enduring conflicts, supply chain disruptions stemming from pandemic lockdowns and extreme weather. In reality, these crises — and most especially rising food insecurity — will be borne primarily by the world’s most vulnerable people. Read more here.

Climate change dominates the dialogue.

As many as a third of the Annual meeting main stage sessions were related to climate change, demonstrating how climate has become central to the WEF agenda. Given the Annual Meeting fell during the midpoint between COP26 in Scotland and COP27 in Egypt where organizations are likely to make major announcements, Davos dialogue focused more on reinforcement of work underway. One standout move was the announcement that more than 50 corporations joined the First Movers Coalition, pledging to purchase commodities made from processes that emit little to no carbon.

The metaverse goes mainstream.

Digital transformation, big data, blockchain and cybersecurity are perennial topics at the Annual Meeting and tech in general is positioned as an accelerator for other solutions — especially for climate. This year, the metaverse and cryptocurrency — both of which had a bit of a mainstream Davos moment — were the tech topics that broke through. What was missing, perhaps, was a more robust conversation about the role of misinformation and media insecurity — especially given that WEF itself has been targeted with misinformation campaigns recently.

Global tax agreement will be delayed.

Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD), told the Forum that “difficult discussions” taking place would mean the global deal could not come into force in 2023, as previously hoped. The agreement would let countries levy more tax on the world’s largest firms based on sales generated within their borders.

Kate Olsen


Kate specializes in developing strategies and integrated engagement campaigns that help purpose-driven clients build brands and advance sustainable development.

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