Davos 1973 to Davos 2020: How the world economy has changed

In 1973 World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab launched the first Davos Manifesto, a set of ethical principles.

50 years after its founding, the Forum has launched a new manifesto.

The global economy has undergone a huge transformation in this time, with the rise of big tech, China, wage inequality and ethical companies.

As planning got underway in 1970 for the inaugural European Management Symposium in Davos, an obscure ski town in the Swiss Alps, the idea that companies should be mindful of far more than the bottom line was still fairly novel. That first version of what would become the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting helped establish the idea that businesses should serve society as a whole, and not just shareholders—a “stakeholder” concept memorialized in 1973’s Davos Manifesto.

Fast forward nearly 50 years, and the mainstreaming of stakeholder capitalism is in full swing. One example: the Business Roundtable, an organization that includes the CEOs of the biggest US companies and once defined a company’s purpose as serving shareholders, recently re-defined that purpose to include a commitment to all stakeholders. Other major shifts to occur in the past five decades include the rising influence of technology firms, the growing prominence of multinationals from the developing world, an expansion of the global talent pool, and a troubling increase in income inequality.

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