As the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014 in Davos approaches, the global economy is still reeling under the impact of the ongoing financial turmoil. There may be some reasons to be optimistic, but the road to recovery so far has been protracted and jobless.
There are close to 200 million unemployed young people in the world, 40 million of whom are in developed economies. According to estimates from the International Labour Organization, in 2013, an estimated 73 million youth, aged 15-24, were said to be unemployed.
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Clearly, an entire generation is at risk of facing a world where lifetime employment is accessible to the privileged few. It is not only our moral responsibility but also in our best interests to create a world where every individual has an equal opportunity to contribute to and benefit from global economic growth.
To this effect, the theme for this year's Annual Meeting – The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business – is well-timed and much-needed. Businesses, societies and nations at large reflect the collective conscience of the people that comprise them and it is the choices we make as individuals and enterprises that shape the world.
History is witness to the power that an individual or a group of individuals can have in changing its course forever. The advent of the digital age and the "internet of things" has made this world a smaller place and the impact of the recent financial crisis is a cruel but important reminder of the consequences our actions can have in our globalized world. It is without doubt that opportunities and the challenges are now global and we can no longer operate in silos.
So how do we shape the world? First we need to reshape our mindset – as individuals and then collectively as a business, society and nation. Being at the helm of an organization with a history of only a little over three decades, I have had the benefit of understanding the role that enterprises play in our pursuit of reshaping the world.
Enterprises have always existed with the primary purpose of the pursuit of profits through legal and ethical means but today I believe they have a much larger role to play. Beyond governments, they are the most influential bodies driving large-scale global, societal and economic well-being. By creating jobs and creating wealth, they act as important custodians of social progress and therefore have an implicit responsibility to fulfill their social contract.
Corporate strategy needs to reflect this by focusing equally on delivering performance and on driving progress through fulfilment of their social contract. The pursuit of profit must be balanced with the pursuit of putting that profit to good use for all its stakeholders. In order to make business future-proof and future-ready, attainment of that fine balance between performance and progress must be the driving force.
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As we envision and create a world for future generations, we need to work together with a common purpose – to provide every individual with equal access to an acceptable standard of living. Towards this purpose, the challenges we face today and the dream we see for tomorrow are too huge for any single stakeholder to work in isolation and hope to make progress. It is imperative for every stakeholder – individuals, businesses, societies, academia, policy-makers and governments among others – to work together and play their part in defining and creating our shared destiny.
The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos has always offered an opportunity to share ideas with other global leaders from government and society as well as business and every region of the world on how best we can achieve these goals and play our own small role in reshaping the world. Davos 2014 certainly promises to be as exciting as ever.
Author: S. D. Shibulal is the chief executive officer of Infosys.