At the World Economic Forum this year, business elites and political leaders charted a new form of climate-friendly capitalism. But it's a palliative capitalismby Oli Mould / February 19, 2020 / Leave a comment
As we entered the new decade, bushfires swept across Australia, hinting at the dystopian post-climate change landscape we may all have to inhabit in the near future. Meanwhile, 10,000 miles (and about 40 degrees centigrade) away in Switzerland, a group of global leaders and influential elites in the mountainous town of Davos were charting a course for our world to avert such a future.
At this year’s World Economic Forum, popularly known as Davos, founder and executive chair Klaus Schwab penned the “Davos Manifesto.” In it, he urged the 3,000 plus invite-only attendees to move toward something he called “stakeholder capitalism”—a system of production that aims to prioritise the welfare of workers, the sustainability of production methods and the social concerns of their consumers.
First unveiled in a blog post titled “Why we need the ‘Davos Manifesto’ for a better kind of capitalism,” Schwab argues that we have had 50 years of “shareholder capitalism,” which believes that a corporation’s primary goal is to maximise profit for investors, executives and shareholders. But citing the “Greta Thunberg effect” that sees young people demand systemic change to avert climate catastrophe, Schwab—and many business elites—are now advocating seemingly radical changes to the system. Indeed, Jeff Bezos announced yesterday that he intends to donate $10 billion dollars to launch a fund supporting climate change research.
But is this change so radical? To the elite who frequent Davos, solving the climate problem, it seems, is to simply do what we have been doing before, only “greener.” Take Amazon, which recently threatened to fire employees who spoke out about the company’s role in the climate crisis and work with oil and gas companies (a company spokeswoman responded noting “Our policy regarding external communications is not new and, we believe, is similar to other large companies.”) Absent an overhaul of the very goals, and strategy of the company that made his empire, Bezos’s announcement masquerades as an act of selfless philanthropy, further endearing billionaires like him to the populace and enshrining their necessity in the system.
Rather than being a programme for radical change, measures like the Davos manifesto are merely a confirmation that there is a pervasive blindness among…