(180122) -- DAVOS (SWITZERLAND), Jan. 22, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2018 shows a logo of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. Davos, which is hosting world leaders for the Jan. 23-26 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), was also affected by heavy snow as the area was secured for the gathering that will draw political, business and cultural leaders from all around the world. (Xinhua/Xu Jinquan)
JOHANNESBURG - I had once worked for a chief executive who religiously spent vast amounts of company funds to make the annual pilgrimage to the Swiss mountain resort of Davos (currently under way), to rub shoulders with heads of state, ministers, international financiers, titans of industry, academics, philanthropists, economists, journalists, business leaders and their entourage.

However, his 22000 strong employees were clueless as to why he went there. 

They were none the wiser as to the value he derived from attending Davos nor the benefit it had on the company or themselves as there was no information nor learning from the Swiss mountain resort that filtered down to them. This is not a unique example.

So this begs the question - is there an implementation plan for the annual theme at Davos that should set the trend globally for business despite the 400 or so sessions held over a three-day period? Is it just nice to be seen at a talk shop or are there quantifiable measures globally of the impact of such an august gathering on the world stage? This year the theme is “Creating a shared future in a fractured world” a fundamental need I should think.

In 2017, the theme at Davos was “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”. But how responsive were the global leaders and titans of industry to that call? How many present at Davos committed to place people and planet before profit? If the responsible leadership theme of 2017 was an actionable solution then why would we have the need to create a shared future in a fractured world? What difference had all the talk, panel discussions, round tables and summits made to the homeless, the desperate jobless and the shack dwellers? Where are the actionable solutions from that call to action of responsive and responsible leadership way back in 2017?

However, there are a handful of global icons and responsible leaders, albeit few and far in between, who pursue and establish ethical and sustainable foundations in the area of their influence and business.

Co-founder of the World Forum for Ethics in Business and humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, had worked tirelessly to create human values and ethics in business.

As trust and ethics become increasingly crucial in business and government, leaders need to engage in a new kind of dialogue that creates a practical understanding of what it means. We have first-hand knowledge of how rapidly companies can crumble when confidence in them is lost - and how the loss of trust freezes capital and plays havoc with the lives of millions through job losses and economic upheaval.

Opportunity

“The backbone of business is trust,” Sri Sri states. “If trust is broken, business cannot succeed. Greed also kills consciousness. That’s what we saw with the financial crisis. But every crisis is an opportunity. When all doors are shut and you have nowhere to go, that is when you go within. The turmoil and economic crisis presents a unique opportunity for leaders to step forward and make business better. When people see life from different perspectives, there is such an expansion in consciousness” he continues.

“We need to develop a global outlook. We should imbibe teamwork from the Japanese, precision from the Germans, marketing skills from the Americans and spiritual values from India.”

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar continues to empower leaders to take more effective action through the World Forum for Ethics in Business. Conscious awareness in business has never been more urgent or consequential as it is today.

Working and playing in the space of conscious leadership, the identification of companies that are responsible and conscious has been my annual foray.

And in my opinion the annual migration of captains of industry, ministers, economists and the like to Davos had not prevented Steinhoff, Eskom and other scandals and shenanigans in South Africa from happening. So I ask again, to those who had committed to responsive and responsible leadership in Davos in 2017 - please stand up and show yourselves! I trust that when the World Economic Forum ends tomorrow, the 2018 theme “Creating a shared future in a fractured world” has an implementation and actionable plan for the global stage. It is an imperative as it requires a paradigm shift that involves courage, initiative and wisdom to evolve selflessly into a Gandhi or a Victor Frankl. It would mean humility, selfless action and service.

Brenda Kali is the chief executive of Conscious Companies and a communication and reputational strategist. She is the author of Beyond Corporate Sludge: Insights to create balance and harmony in the workplace.

- BUSINESS REPORT