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Seven new boardroom priorities from Davos

Feb 08, 2019

Davos is over for another 12 months. Out of the debates, interviews and discussions came seven areas that boards will now need to consider when planning for their future.

Global Risks

Worsening economic and political confrontations between major powers are anticipated this year, and over a ten-year period, extreme weather and climate-change policy failures are seen as the gravest threats.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is introducing technologies at a speed and scale unparalleled in history. Regulation and cooperation between countries will be imperative to harnessing the value of what is seen as the 'new oil' -- data. We are still in the foothills of this new industrial revolution and have to find a way that uses data to our advantage while, at the same time, staying compliant with GDPR.

Climate change and ecological challenges

Climate change is real but is not as high on politicians agendas as it should be. United States President Donald Trump, who did not attend the World Economic Forum, has never been a fan of addressing climate change as it would impact his coal mining support-base in the US. Angela Merkel said Germany would need coal for “a certain time”, which disappointed many environmentalists.

Broadcaster David Attenborough, however, was in Davos to promote the need to address climate change, and climate activist Greta Thunberg used the forum’s spotlight to promote climate activism.

Ecological challenges including, but not limited to, climate change are threatening socio-economic development. Human basic needs such as food, water, health and shelter are all affected by climate. The changes in climate may threaten these needs with increased temperatures, rising sea levels, changes in precipitation, and more frequent or intense extreme weather events.

The gender gap

The gender gap is not closing fast enough. According to The Global Gender Gap Report 2018, the world still has a long way to go when it comes to political and economic leadership. Across the 149 countries assessed, there are just 17 that currently have women as heads of state while, on average, just 18% of ministers and 24% of parliamentarians globally are women. Similarly, women hold just 34% of managerial positions across the countries where data is available. Full parity of this indicator is already a reality in five countries (Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Lao PDR and the Philippines), and in another 19 countries, there are at least 40% of women in managerial positions.

Geopolitical risk 

Geopolitical risk has increased as a result of Brexit and the possibility of no deal being made between the EU and the UK, the USA–China trade war and general unease about the global economy. The impact of globalism and nationalism in many countries has and will continue to cause political instability. There are also concerns that the tech bubble will burst as many impending IPOs, like Uber, are overpriced.

Greater focus on diversity and inclusion

Seven top businesses backed the new Partnership for Global LGBTI Equality and will be an important inclusion in the agendas of businesses and boards around the world.

Global data governance

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzō Abe, pledged action on global data governance, which is a start to what will be a global conversation as data analytics and the consumption of data grows. Prime Minister Abe told the Davos audience that personal and security data must be placed under strong privacy protection while, at the same time, allowing a free flow of medical, industrial, traffic and other data be to analysed and utilised.

David W Duffy is the founder and CEO of The Governance Company and author of A Practical Guide for Company Directors, published by Chartered Accountants Ireland