ISO international Standards are practical tools to help tackle many of the challenges discussed at the 40th meeting of the World Economic Forum, 27 – 31 January 2010 at Davos, Switzerland, on the theme of 'Rethink, redesign, rebuild'.
This was the conclusion reached by ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele who took the opportunity to participate and meet a number of the senior business and government leaders among the 2500 people attending.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) this year held over 200 sessions to discuss and develop solutions to respond to the 2008 financial meltdown and 2009 economic crisis. Discussions covered six main areas.
- How to strengthen economic and social welfare
- Restoring financial security
- Building effective institutions
- Creating a values framework
- Ensuring sustainability
- Mitigating global risk and addressing systemic failures
'Perhaps one quote outlined what needs to be done,' declared Rob Steele. 'The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy said, 'What remains to be done is to bring into being a new growth model …. We must now invent the state, the company, and the city of the twenty-first century.'
Rob Steele commented, 'To do so, international Standards are at the core. They offer a basis for understanding and a clear description of how you do the 'what'. ISO has Standards that assist business become more efficient and effective, not just from an economic, but also from environmental and societal viewpoints. It was clear from the discussions that issues such as social responsibility are not only important – they are integral to the solution to all of the areas outlined above.'
'When I pointed out to people that I met during the week that ISO was developing a Standard on social responsibility, the universal reaction was one of real interest and enthusiasm. The frequent comment from business and government leaders from all parts of the world was that this was needed and worthwhile.'
'It was also clear that one key strategy to help address the triple issues of responding to climate change and the need for sustainability while stimulating economic growth, was effective investment in creating green jobs and green technologies. ISO already has an extensive portfolio of Standards in this area and is developing more, especially energy efficiency, one of the areas where there are immediate opportunities to reduce energy usage and, therefore, CO2 emissions.'
Rob Steele noted an underlying theme of a need for global solutions based on mutual understanding – such as those offered by ISO Standards – and saw that this was reinforced by speaker after speaker.
- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund, called for coordination for global efficiency in the face of global complexity in reform of the financial sector.
- Montek Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India spoke of the need for 'global norms'.
- Josef Ackermann, Co-Chair of the WEF 2010 and Chairman of the Management Board and Group Chief Executive of Deutsche Bank talked of a change in business model and 'new norms'.
- Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia, spoke of the critical need for a global response on the use of water and called for a universal water code.
- Doris Leuthard, President of Switzerland, spoke of the need for international Standards to address the gap between rhetoric and reality, on eco-friendly products and services; and speaker after speaker urged business to understand and meet the needs of stakeholders, not just shareholders.