Impact Investing | May 23, 2022

At elite World Economic Forum, Davos Man and Davos Woman will talk sustainability, inclusion and action

Amy Cortese
ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, May 23 – It’s back.

As the world’s corporate and government movers and shakers gather at Davos after a two-year pandemic pause, the World Economic Forum – and its “Davos Man” archetype – are evolving to meet the moment.

“The return of war, epidemics and the climate crisis, all those disruptive forces have derailed the global recovery,” the World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab told reporters ahead of the gathering. “Those issues must be confronted in Davos.”

A pair of academics analyzed eight years of WEF press releases to chart the group’s shift from a focus on growth to sustainability and inclusion. Davos Man has been joined by Davos Woman. And the talk, at least, is about moving from talk to action.

“Undoubtedly, the new Davos Man will continue to preach equality in its 2022 meeting, even as his conference remains one of the most exclusive events of the year,” conclude the researchers, EMLV’s Shawn Pope and Stanford’s Patricia Bromley. This year’s Davos gathering has been called the most consequential in its 50-year history. 


ImpactAlpha’s own analysis of the WEF’s program, “History at a Turning Point,” found the word ‘Ukraine’ appears 47 times. There are 77 mentions of ‘climate,’ and 55 references to ‘crisis’ or ‘crises.’

Russia’s oligarchs and envoys were asked to stay home. Kyiv mayor Vitaliy Klitschko is leading Ukraine’s delegation; President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the summit by video on Monday. 

Climate smart

Extreme weather is already disrupting crops and food security. A new carbon removal offtake initiative launched by Swiss-based SouthPole will include global corporations like LGT, Mitsui O.S.K. Line and Swiss Re.

This year’s Davos gathering is “a chance for us to reset the way that we’re thinking, particularly from a corporate perspective, about the impact of climate related issues,” SouthPole’s Philip Moss tells ImpactAlpha.

The group aims to remove up to one million tons of carbon this decade at an average cost of $400 per ton.

Farmer finance

“Driving capital to farmers and ranchers to help them adopt climate smart practices can get us closer to net zero,” Ranchers in Action’s Erin Fitzgerald writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha as she heads to Davos.

She calls for incentives similar to renewable energy credits to incentivize investments including crop irrigation techniques, rotational grazing, fenceless sensors and digital and drone monitoring. “A harmonized roadmap and investments in transformative agriculture can translate into measurable results.” 

Tech innovators

The WEF’s list of 100 early- to growth-stage tech pioneers includes a half-dozen startups from Africa, such as Kenya-based Access Afya, and Latin America, including microTERRA in Mexico. There are three selections from the Middle East and North Africa including Tunisia’s  HawKar.

Seven nature and climate startups include Proeon in India. Okra Solar in Australia is among seven energy, materials and infrastructure companies. Health and healthcare firms including Vietnam-based Docosan.

What we’re watching

Emmanuel Faber, chair of the new International Sustainability Standards Board, will discuss the changing landscape of ESG reporting… U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, Kenyan activist Elizabeth Wathuti, China climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and Saleforce’s Marc Benioff will take up climate resilience…

The Rockefeller Foundation’s Rajiv Shah, the World Farmers’ Organization’s Theo De Jager, and Unliver’s Italy Hanneke Faber will chew over the emerging food crisis… BlocPower’s Donnel Baird, Gavi’s Seth Berkley, and Everstream Analytics’s Julie Gerdeman will highlight innovations that may outlast the crises… “Is globalism dead?” the FT’s Rana Foroohar wants to know from The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman. How to follow.