Davos confirms: Capitalism realigns from shareholders to stakeholders.

The real value of the annual Davos week, currently in progress, goes past superficial handshakes, cocktail parties and business card swaps. It lies, rather, in the WEF’s ability to spot trends long before they mainstream. Witness the internet, social media and climate change featuring on the WEF agenda long before becoming popular.

Front and centre in Davos this year is the swing from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism. After climbing the agenda for years, it is now in the spotlight. To retain their social licences, companies must serve customers, staff, suppliers and their community – not just shareholders. Setting high Environment, Society and Governance (ESG) standards has become a must for any company wanting to attract support from serious investors.

It’s an area South Africans have pioneered along with the Japanese. Consider how the King Commission’s Report on Corporate Governance, now in its fourth iteration, was first issued way back in 1994. And that among ESG’s most visible global champions is London-based Hendrik du Toit of Investec Asset Management (listen to this 2019 Davos interview).

Anyone following the debates at Davos 2020 certainly understands the business of business is now far more than just business. Shareholders are no longer all-powerful. A good ESG rating ranks in importance alongside financial statements. It’s a whole new world with fresh challenges. Executives still in the slow lane need to catch up. Fast.