Some see the annual Economic Forum at Davos Switzerland as a chance for business and government leaders to get together and brainstorm solutions on how to improve the world, and others see it as a glistening mountain of snow, nose candy, champagne and ski slopes, a big decadent party you aren’t invited you to and no one is telling you about; the press just gives you a rundown of the boring panels during the day, but is kept away from the soirees at night.
Does Davos truly have an impact on the world or does what happen in Davos stay in Davos? Former President of Yale University said he regularly went to Davos, because there he would meet alumni and “potential friends of the University” who would give generously. It is rumored that Mark Zuckerberg met future Facebook executive Sheryl Sandburg at Davos in 2008. Sure, small businesses can secure funding there, deals can be made. But do those panels about world poverty, inequality and environmental concerns have any life after Davos? Or is it all hot air, but not hot enough, apparently, to dare melt the snow on the pristine ski slopes.
Davos doesn’t lack great rhetoric, such as this from Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters, “Supply chains are at risk of becoming the gates from which many modern day slaves get trapped. This is not just morally wrong; it’s also extremely dangerous for business.”
However, combined with great quotes are stories, like one from Reuters’ columnist Felix Salmon, about an exclusive champagne tasting declining into a “drunken mess” to confirm, “in the plutocrats’ minds just how exclusive they, and Davos, really are.” Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show lampooned the rumored debauchery; a reporter from Davos, “the money Oscars” had to distract the audience from an orgy in the background. This, of course, is satire. Or perhaps it is only slight exaggeration. Those of us who don’t attend can’t know, since what happens in Davos stays in Davos.