Klaus Schwab Explains How to Fix the Global Trust Crisis
Edward Felsenthal, editor in chief of TIME, speaks with Klaus Schwab (founder of the World Economic Forum) about cooperation, climate hopes, and youth power. The interview was edited and condensed.
Recently, I heard your interview with Sundar Piichai [Alphabet CEO]And you asked him about remote working. He said that we’re living on borrowed time. How do you think about that sentence, “We’re living on borrowed time,” and the necessity of being together in person?
It can create an information exchange that allows people to learn from each other, and it is effective. However, it does not establish trust between humans. You need to meet in person. Some moments should be spent on the sidelines of the monitor. During the past two years. [the World Economic Forum]We made significant progress because we never believed we could be event-oriented. Today, the majority of our partners participate in at least one of these initiatives. There are more than 50 platforms and initiatives for public-private collaboration. I’m very proud to say, since the beginning of the crisis, we have won over 200 additional partners who joined us without knowing when they could go to Davos or not. Because we are seeing a decline in trust, I feel the time is right to bring people together. And trust can only be built through human relationships. The World Economic Forum is, more broadly, a group of businesses, governments and civil society members who want to collaborate.
Which was the most important takeaway from COP26
There were three points to be made. One is that I believe the entire discussion about COP26 raised awareness worldwide of the seriousness of the issue. This is a huge success.
Second, COP26 didn’t fulfill all the expectations, but I think the significant importance of Glasgow was to show how businesses are taking the lead. Many initiatives exist, some of which were created by or catalyzed at the World Economic Forum. I’m mentioning the Mission Possible Partnership, which brings together over 400 companies in aluminum, steel and so on. That’s something we pushed very much since Biden announced the First Movers Coalition to make commitments to buy ships, or planes, which are run by green fuel, and by making a commitment to buy such innovative products, advancing the innovation, because there’s also people who would say 50% of the innovation, which we need in order to become carbon neutral, does not yet exist.
Third, I think it is about nature-based options. It’s the One Trillion Trees Initiative to plant 1 trillion trees over the next 10 years. [Marc and Lynne Benioff, TIME’s owners and co-chairs, are among the supporters of the One Trillion Trees Initiative.]It is also, in a wider sense, the entire regeneration of agriculture biodiversity that we require, as well as decarbonizing other industries.
Which theme is Davos’s 2019 conference? What are your thoughts on the climate role at Davos this year?
This was my first meeting. I wanted to understand the needs of both our political and business constituencies. However, we needed a slogan. The slogan is “Working Together, Restoring Trust” because we feel that the accent should be on working together, generating an impact. Only results will make you credible if you work together.
The pandemic brought about a crisis of trust in the world. Are you concerned that the pandemic could exacerbate this crisis?
Yes, definitely. Look, on a country basis, it would seem that global cooperation has declined significantly. Two reasons are apparent to me. One is that it has created polarization in societies. And in a polarized society, it’s much more difficult to take decisions because decisions usually, particularly political decisions, are based on a compromise. Another factor is the fact that governments have a lot to do with crisis management. Maneuvering from day to day, you don’t see any more long-term perspectives, except in some more Australian type of countries.
Davos’ elite nature has been the main criticism over the years. What can you do to address distrust among stakeholder parties who are not at Davos?
The media has now been open to us. This is more crucial than ever. The second reason is that virtually all sessions can be streamed, so both the public and ourselves have access to them. Our goal is to encourage participation from the public. Last but not least, the forum established a strong youth organization. I’m a big believer in the necessity to integrate the young voice because more than 50% of the global population are below 30 years old, and they are not integrated. So when we talk about those who are left behind, I’m thinking particularly of the young generation.
Comment do you view the effect of the fourth industrial revolution’s pandemic?
Some technologies in the fourth industrial revolution have been greatly accelerated because of the pandemic. It is evident in artificial intelligence. We also see it in medical and genetic areas. I think one of the areas I’m particularly interested in is quantum computing; we see quite some progress. First, these technologies are rapidly evolving and you often need to build your own technology. This means that you also need policies to ensure the technology serves society and people. The whole debate about social media shows that technology must be regulated. There is a risk that the governments will become too consumed with fighting this pandemic and not have enough energy left to regulate the technology.
We didn’t talk about inflation.
My concern is short term. There are many factors that we don’t know. The first one is how much new variants may lead to, let’s say, shutdowns. We don’t know what will happen if we put some brakes on. There are uncertainties about the next year. The longer-term: How can we keep our intergenerational responsibility?