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How business leaders adapt to geopolitical and economic change


  • A series of unprecedented global challenges have underscored the need to think more carefully about how businesses adapt to the changing geopolitical and economic environment.
  • The diverse set of challenges facing the global community can have profound effects on individuals as well, which needs consideration when future-proofing.
  • Leaders of the World Economic Forum’s Innovators Community speak about how, as business leaders, they adapt to geopolitical and economic challenges today.

Amid global challenges – such as the war in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions and soaring food and energy prices – global growth is forecast to slow from 6% in 2021 to 3.2% in 2022 and 2.7% in 2023. This instability undermines real incomes, triggering a global cost-of-living crisis, particularly for vulnerable groups. Moreover, the rise in interest rates could further exacerbate an already dire situation and trigger a recession and a surge in unemployment, with signs of corporate layoffs making headlines.

We asked leaders of the World Economic Forum’s Innovators Community, a group of mission-driven start-ups and Unicorn companies, about their priorities as business leaders and how they adapt to today’s realities. Here are the answers.

‘We must be willing to adapt how we work to meet the moment’

Isabelle Kenyon, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Calibrate

For me, it’s about dialling up my empathy and being aware of the realities of cultural burnout. Teams are anxious about the economy, taking care of their families, and social justice. I choose to lead from a place of understanding for all the challenges our team members face outside of work and creating the culture and the flexibility to enable them to do their best work through challenging times. We must be willing to adapt how we work to meet the moment.

‘It is important to focus on your company’s core values and make sure that business practices intentionally support that’

Noam Schwartz, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, ActiveFence

I believe that when the environment changes, as we are seeing today, it is important to focus on your company’s core values and make sure that business practices intentionally support that.

With that in mind, here are my priorities for an adaptive business in today’s world: creating an impact in the market we’re part of and including diverse populations in the workforce as we aim to help improve our nation’s productivity. We also prioritize sustainability in everything we do to support our planet and improve the resilience and well-being of our workforce so they can cope with changing realities. That is done by focusing on the team’s personal and professional growth.

‘We will do our part to bridge the great gulf between the ‘is’ and the ‘should”

Ed Rogers, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Bonumose

People will willingly eat more nourishing food when price and palatability are at parity with less healthy legacy options. When that happens, as a consequence thereof, in a virtuous circle, reductions in diet-related healthcare costs will have a deflationary effect on food prices and alleviation of health-related suffering will free individuals for inspired innovations that benefit humanity and the earth.

High-quality, great-tasting, healthy food can be – and should be – accessible to individuals and families of all income levels. Too often, it is not, but we will do our part to bridge the great gulf between the “is” and the “should.” It remains our lodestar in current conditions and brighter economic times to come.

‘If I, as a leader, want to make a difference here, I do it with simple solutions that also have unmistakable cost advantages’

Sebastian-Justus Schmidt, Chief Executive Officer, Enapter

The world’s biological, environmental ecosystem is made up of self-regulating systems that, if left untouched, will return to a normal state over time.
We know that this is not so easy with the economy-eco-system. A network of regulatory relationships that are often challenging to unravel determines many areas, particularly noticeable in my industry, the energy sector. If I, as a leader, want to make a difference here, I do it with simple solutions that also have unmistakable cost advantages. Solutions that fight global warming while providing alternatives to fossil fuels while being cheaper will ultimately win. We have to make the world easier.

‘Regardless of today’s geopolitical and economic environments, climate change is “the” challenge of our times’

Ponsi Trivisvavet, Chief Executive Officer, Inari

Our founding focus at Inari has been on helping to build a more sustainable global food system, and that has not changed. If anything, recent events have further confirmed the fragility of the current system, shining a light on how important and great the opportunity is to do better.

We also must remember that regardless of today’s geopolitical and economic environments, climate change is “the” challenge of our times, an issue that will increasingly affect everybody on this planet but disproportionately affect those who are most vulnerable. Addressing this has been, and will continue to be, my priority as a business leader.

‘We built for the long term while solving short-term needs’

Shivani Siroya, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Tala

In this current environment, I’m focused on growing our company smartly by continuing to deliver value to our customers. Our customers have different needs in times of uncertainty and we can build trust and loyalty by continuing to meet those needs in new and more valuable ways.

Our customers and company are still benefiting today from some of the core capabilities we built to respond to the global pandemic in 2020 because we built for the long term while solving short-term needs. So as we head into 2023, we are paying close attention to the macro-environment for cues to adjust how we grow and what we prioritize, but we aren’t slowing down.

‘There is an increased need for private savings to close this pension gap’

Christian Hecker, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Trade Republic Bank

Trade Republic is a commission-free wealth creation platform empowering every European to access capital markets. Trade Republic’s mission is based on secular macroeconomic and demographic changes disrupting the generational pension systems across continental Europe. There is an increased need for private savings to close this pension gap.

Driven by high inflation and rising interest rates, European retail investors face huge pressure on their private wealth, with the average European household only saving €300 a month. As a technology company, Trade Republic strives to decrease entry barriers for retail investors and take away fees to enable people to start investing independently from their income and background.

‘It is now time to collaborate, open up and work together to find solutions, offering previously uncovered answers’

Stefan Reuther, Member of the Executive Board, COPA-DATA

The markets and business environments are uncertain as never before; therefore, a single warrior cannot overcome the complexities of the problems we face. The era of lone combatants has ended.

The most important priority is clearly set by the disruption of systems and solutions we thought were unshakable. It is now time to collaborate, open up and work together to find solutions, offering previously uncovered answers.
Priority number two unquestionably strengthens our technological efforts, providing our clients with the sustainable solutions they require to solve today’s difficulties by delivering relevant and appropriate responses, allowing them to achieve their strategic business and sustainability goals.

‘It is now that we, innovative business leaders, need to step up and showcase our solutions’

Linnéa Kornehed Falck, Chief Marketing Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Einride

For the world to turn its undivided attention to scaling sustainable solutions and add momentum to the shift already in place in the market, it needs to stop supporting legacy systems once and for all. It is now that we, innovative business leaders, need to step up and showcase our solutions.

We know today how to solve tomorrow’s problems, and this is key to truly implementing the ambitions that countries around the world must commit to.

‘The promise of intelligent automation is helping organizations to adapt’

Mihir Shukla, Chief Executive Officer, Automation Anywhere

The pandemic and other geopolitical issues have forced business leaders to adapt to new ways of working while meeting customer demands. Now more than ever, customers expect better products, more personalized services and instant response times.

For example, social and mobile shopping has skyrocketed, and online spending, in general, is 35% higher than pre-pandemic levels. A change in shopping preferences introduced the need for curbside pickup. Today, businesses are capturing new data and testing new operational models.

My priorities are being able to empower teams and adapt to these changes. The promise of intelligent automation is helping organizations to adapt – to create simplicity, to empower every team and every employee with more time to solve problems, build relationships and drive business success. Automation, one of the most transformative technologies to emerge from the digital revolution, uses software robots or digital workers to help organizations automate business processes and unlock unprecedented efficiencies.

The world economy is facing a perfect storm of disruptive megatrends, ranging from the climate crisis to geopolitical tensions and emerging technologies. These are challenging the foundations on which global value chains are built. And while issues affect various industry sectors in different ways, there are unique opportunities for pioneers to build resilience and shape the supply chains of the future.

The World Economic Forum has been working with a community of manufacturing and supply chain leaders to anticipate how manufacturing companies can best move beyond reactively responding to disruptive forces towards proactively building the right set of capabilities to ensure long-term and sustainable resilience.

This work has resulted in the co-development of the resiliency compass, a unique framework aimed at helping manufacturing organizations assess their current level of resilience across eight dimensions:

  • portfolio excellence
  • customer orientation
  • financial viability
  • go-to-market versatility
  • logistics flexibility
  • manufacturing adaptability
  • supplier diversity
  • advanced planning

The Resiliency Compass

Image: World Economic Forum

Through our work across industries and geographies, we also identified five profiles of resilience leadership, reflecting distinct priorities and approaches to starting and navigating a resilience journey: the collaborator; the planner; the enhancer; the adapter; and the provider.

To further help firms build and implement new resilience efforts and roadmaps, a series of strategy playbooks were co-developed in close collaboration with members of the Platform for Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Value Chains. These playbooks outline the set of actionable strategies employed by leaders within each resilience profile to fortify their value chain.

‘The best way forward will be through investing in our children, who are the future’

Bhavin Pandya, Co-Founder and Co-Chief Executive Officer, Games24x7

While the geopolitical environment has been vulnerable and unfortunately continues to be so, the economic environment is in a dire state. The gap between the fortunate and not-so-fortunate continues to widen at an alarming rate. As a business leader, addressing this ever-increasing divide is a major priority. There is a need to build a more inclusive society and there are no short-term solutions. Undoing this damage inflicted over many years is a long and arduous task but if business leaders in this connected world don’t work towards it, then who will?

At Games24x7, we believe that to make our future a better place, we need to enable and empower our children to live a life of dignity, to dream and to get an opportunity to fulfil those dreams. The Games24x7 Foundation is committed to empowering children in India. Last year alone, over 15,000 children in India benefited through our efforts but that is merely a speckle. We have a long way to go, and the best way forward will be through investing in our children, who are the future. The time is now to be an intelligent investor – to invest and create value for society.

‘The intrinsic value of our project lies in the engaging experiences our creators deliver’

Borget Sebastien, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, The Sandbox

Our focus is on building a great product, both for players and creators, to increase engagement and adoption in our communities and beyond.

That’s where the intrinsic value of our project lies: in the engaging experiences our creators deliver and the opportunities they find in the sandbox to make a living from their creativity.

‘We are first and foremost in a people business’

Maarten Michielssens, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, EnergyVision

Our main focus is to remove worries and barriers for our customers. Our teams first need to be released from their own worries to do that. Indeed, we are convinced that helping customers can only truly happen if, first of all, our employees have the full energy to focus on our customers and not on their own daily struggle with today’s situation.

So we remove their worries first – by securing their wages during the COVID-19 crisis, paying their energy bills during the energy crisis, removing some of their daily worries, etc., which allows them to focus on helping as many customers as possible.

We are not only in an energy business – we are first and foremost in a people business.

‘Strengthening trust and safety is my priority’

Nadav Shoval, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, OpenWeb

One of the greatest threats to businesses, governments and society is the proliferation of hate speech and harassment. This problem, fueled by and leads to political and sectarian divisions throughout the world, has been made worse by a business model that prioritizes clicks and growth at all costs and rewards the most extreme and outrage-provoking voices.

The most successful businesses, moving forward, will centre trust and safety as core principles. Strengthening trust and safety is my priority – not only for OpenWeb but for brands, publishers and advertisers across the globe. When traditional social media companies are turning away from moderation and indulging their most extreme voices, it is important to empower journalism and publishers that value integrity, fairness and truth.

We all are responsible for responding to people’s desire for trusted online spaces free of the toxicity that plagues social media. Ethics should not be seen as a cost of doing business but as the goal of business. Businesses embracing this model will be the winners of the new economy.

‘We are building for the future, conducting business continuity exercises and reviewing our plans’

Herman Narula, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Improbable Worlds

While achieving our business goals and accelerating our development of the metaverse, we are building for the future, conducting business continuity exercises and reviewing our plans.

We’re always seeking to increase operational efficiency and streamline operating expenses, shield the firm from geopolitical and economic risks, and align it with current business needs, top strategic priorities and key growth opportunities.



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