Davos 2020 – Welcome to the parallel universe of the “elites”
Every year in January, when the world’s elite meets in the snowy Swiss winter sports resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum, there is a traffic jam on the tarmac of nearby Zurich Airport.
During one week, 1,500 private jets land and take off there. US President Trump is coming from the USA with two jumbos. Already last week, three wide-body freighters of the US government landed in Switzerland to deliver his entourage – including 600 Secret Service employees – several helicopters and his limousine called “The Beast”.
One can sense that the central theme of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos is sustainability and climate policy. Greta Thunberg will also be present at the forum with the estimated annual CO2 balance of a small African state and will raise her admonishing finger. After all, the cameras are there and you know how to sell yourself. But the claim and the reality are growing ever further apart.
When the Economic Forum, or as it is called in insider circles, the WEF, takes place, Davos becomes the meeting place of the so-called “elites”. They know each other, they meet; tycoons worth billions, bankers and the invited political celebrities exchange more or less intelligent speeches in panels in the conference center, and for some years now they have been demonstratively exercising self-criticism in public.
This year, they intend to give the term “stakeholder capitalism” a “new meaning”. This would all be very laudable if self-criticism was actually taken seriously and the cheap sentences, for which some spin doctors and PR consultants would certainly charge princely fees, were followed by deeds. But unfortunately, that is never the case in Davos. What takes place in the brazen halls of the congress center is PR – no more and no less.
In any case, the important discussions do not take place on the conference site, but at the “shadow conferences” behind the scenes at exclusive, often humid, private meetings. The participants include the super-rich and the best-networked people from the financial system – heads of global commercial banks and billionaire hedge fund managers on the one hand and central bankers on the other. What is discussed here has significance for our future. Stupidly enough, the “shadow conferences” – nomen est omen – take place in the shadow of the public. Does self-criticism also play a role there? Not likely.
This year, the Davos permanent guest Larry Fink, head of the financial group BlackRock, is once again at the forefront. It would be interesting to hear what he talks about in the evenings in the private rooms of the Davos five-star hotels with heads of state and government, corporate leaders and central bankers. We will probably never know. There is no democratic control, the normal citizen is literally powerless.
BlackRock is a “strategic partner” and thus one of the most important financiers of the World Economic Forum. Other strategic partners are major banks and financial groups such as AIG, Bank of America, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley. But also groups from the real economy are represented. These include BP, Chevron, Dow Chemicals, Fluorine, Lukoil, Nestlé, Siemens, Saudi Aramco, and the Saudi chemicals giant SABIC; all companies that one would not even dream of associating with the term “sustainability”.
However, it would be too superficial to hold only the oil, chemical and mining companies liable. After all, with few exceptions, the majority of these companies are owned by financial groups such as BlackRock. These financial groups are the real beneficiaries of an unsustainable economic system. BlackRock boss Larry Fink would thus also be the logical addressee for the riotous remarks that Greta will once again read to the assembled elites in Davos.
After all, BlackRock is also one of the largest shareholders of corporations such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell or the coal multinational BHP Group. With the exception of the French Total, the group is one of the three largest shareholders in all the major listed oil companies and has a significant stake in seven of the ten largest coal companies.
Together with its competitors Vanguard and State Street, BlackRock controls companies that account for 38% of global CO2 emissions. While numerous financial groups, such as Allianz, AXA, DWS or the major Swiss bank UBS, have joined an investor group called Climate Action 100+ and often voted in favor of climate protection measures in the companies in which they hold shares, the American financial giants are acting in exactly the opposite direction.
A study by the Harvard Business School lists numerous cases in which BlackRock and Co. specifically used their votes to prevent climate-friendly resolutions by other shareholders. Whether the support for the climate sinners comes from the fact that six of BlackRock’s 18 board members were previously employed by a company in the oil or gas sector?
Despite all the Sunday speeches of the financial groups, at the end of the day, only the return on investment counts for them. And the World Economic Forum will not change that. When the world’s elite have left wintery Switzerland on Thursday in their 1,500 private jets, one thing above all remains – a lot of hot air.