In the photo: WEF’s Olivier Woeffray, Julia Devos and Stephan Mergenthaler with EO members John Metcalf, Troy Armour and Nikhil Hirdaramani in Davos, Switzerland.
The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland convened leaders from business, government and civil society committed to driving positive, tangible change for the long-term of our planet and the people who live on it.
Though EO did not have an official presence at the January 2023 WEF annual meeting in Davos, four EO members attended, having been invited through other initiatives: Nikhil Hirdaramani (EO Sri Lanka and EO Global Partnerships), Troy Armour (EO Europe Bridge), John Metcalf (EO San Antonio), and Pajani Singah (EO London).
We asked them to share takeaways from the meeting.
The SDG Lab
Nikhil Hirdaramani and Pajani Singah participated in the SDG Lab, which aims to promote the UN SDGs and brainstorm new ideas for promoting them among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) such as EO-member companies. Troy Armour also attended and shared his story with the SDG Lab.
“SDG Lab is a multi-stakeholder initiative that contributes to the implementation of the UN SDGs. We were invited to participate by the Global Leaders Initiative, which aims to bring key networks together to find solutions that address the challenges of sustainable development. During the four days of the SDG Lab in Davos, we worked with global leaders to create mutually beneficial solutions to address the SDGs,” shared Pajani Singah and Nikhil Hirdaramani.
Nikhil continued: “We were fortunate to have two EO members who were able to demonstrate how they are addressing the SDGs through their companies – Pajani Singah and Troy Armour.”
- Pajani Singah’s company, Amazonia Impact Ventures, was named Top Innovation Winner of the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Tropical Forest Commodities Challenge for protecting the Amazon rainforest and improving the lives of its people through an innovative finance company that works directly with indigenous communities in the rainforests.
- Troy Armour’s company, Junk Kouture, has created an engaged, active, and inspiring community of young people working together to make a difference in climate change by finding a new purpose for discarded objects. More than 15,000 Junk Kouture designs have prevented an estimated 40,000kg of waste from going into landfills, and inspired youth from 35 countries.
“At EO, we have storytelling at our fingertips. We can easily share how our 17,000 members are addressing the UN SDGs with their businesses,” Nikhil continued. “It was fantastic that Troy could be at the SDG Lab with winners from the Junk Kouture competition who came dressed in their creations made from discarded objects – providing a real-life example of how to breathe new life into what might otherwise have gone into a landfill.
“In addition, SDG Lab participants were asked to support the creation of the SDG Olympic Games for Climate. They hope to launch it later in 2023. I shared EO’s GSEA model; SDG Lab may take inspiration from that on how to run this new programme,” Nikhil shared.
Nikhil’s three overall takeaways from Davos:
- Improving the state of the world is everyone’s business, not just big business.
- There is a need for the voice of entrepreneurs to be heard in Davos.
- We need to make sure all the positive discussions turn into concrete actions with solutions.
Inspiring Creativity Among Youth
Troy Armour carried his company’s message from youth to the inner circle at WEF, and even got some of the Junk Kouture alumni a platform to speak and share their stories. Here’s what Troy shared:
I was invited to Davos by Deloitte to speak on “how inspiring creativity among youth can drive innovative sustainability solutions and help toward achieving the SDGs.” One story I told was about Junk Kouture, the world’s largest youth sustainable fashion competition, with a vision to enrich and empower the lives of young people through creativity and sustainability.
I always weave EO into the story of Junk Kouture. I share how, in 2018, we experienced significant staff issues, even as the competition was reaching its peak popularity in Ireland. In late 2018, I let the whole team go, and started over. My biggest realisation being that I needed to invest in myself before I could lead others. That’s when I applied to the EO Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP) at MIT in Boston.
At EMP, Brian Brault, our course leader, asked me, “Why Junk Kouture?” He kept asking why, and eventually the realisation came on: Because every one of those kids are me, and I’m not going to let them down! In that moment, EO changed the course of my life and my business. As a result, I hired a team based on the mantra that we existed to enrich and empower the lives of young people.
I went into EMP with a ‘millionaire’ mindset and came out with a ‘billionaire’ mindset, and not just in money terms: I believe I can impact one billion lives in a positive way. That’s transformational for me but also for those one billion young people — Junk Kouture went from a one-country event to now reaching young people in 35 countries. I’ve been fortunate to tell this story at several events, including three in Davos: the Goals House Sustainable Fashion Roundtable, the UN SDG Lab, and the Deloitte Haus presentation to 130 people at Deloitte C-level and their clients.
Overall Takeaways from the WEF meeting in Davos
John Metcalf, co-founder and CEO of Upgraded, shared his experience at Davos 2023:
This year was my fifth time to visit Davos during the WEF annual meeting. I started going regularly in 2014 when I became a Global Shaper. (I am now an alumnus). On my first trip, I made friends with people in other WEF communities like Young Global Leaders and Technology Pioneers. Now when I go, I see old friends and attend events — including the Swedish Lunch.
My three most significant takeaways from Davos are:
1. WEF events and communities train you to think big. The question is not, ‘How do I grow sales from $10M to $20M?’ The question is, ‘How do I improve the lives of those in my community?’ Or, ‘Which of the UN SDGs goals and targets is my company working towards?’
2. WEF events and communities are therapy for Impostor Syndrome. Having the chance to meet leaders at the highest levels of business, government and impact helps me to remember that they are not some form of superhumans. People you respect can also slip in the snow, sometimes lose their train of thought, and enjoy singing karaoke.
3. WEF-size goals + Entrepreneurship is the perfect match, but we need to bring the two together. In the WEF, entrepreneurship is mentioned, but it’s not at the forefront. At the same time, my entrepreneur friends kind of consider how they are Improving the state of the world, but it’s often not at the forefront. There’s an opportunity here.
EO and WEF
EO’s collaborative agreement with WEF, the University of Cambridge, and the National University of Singapore, established in 2021, explores SMEs’ positioning and future readiness around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The collaboration produced a White Paper, Future Readiness of SMEs: Mobilizing the SME Sector to Drive Widespread Sustainability and Prosperity.
EO is excited to continue its collaboration to provide value to its members, increase EO’s visibility globally, elevate the organization’s brand as a global thought leader, and attract new potential members.