People need to dream

Chris Cordey, CEO of and Associate Professor at Business School Lausanne, organized a very interesting Sustainable Luxury Forum in Geneva last week. The title of the forum set the scene – Luxury in a VUCA World: How to Address Soaring Inequalities, Scarcities and Complexities?  A VUCA world needs to be explained – it means a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In short, the world we live in today.

Unfortunately, I only managed to attend the first day of the event; however, the quality of the speakers and audience was outstanding. The Sustainable Luxury Brochure we received on arrival had some quotes that set the stage:

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent.  But if we can come to terms with this indifference, than our existence as a species can have genuine meaning.  However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light” (Stanley Kubrick). Wow…

Nick Bostrom from Oxford University, was the first speaker and he started by discussing the concept of sustainability. He wondered if we could break out of the human condition and he talked about trust in the post human condition. Technology is maturing, what will it look like in 30 years’ time? We heard about human beings and politics and we went on an extremely interesting, intellectual journey.

On the Human condition and Energy

Herve Kempf, a well-known writer and journalist welcomed us into a new world. He wondered what climate change will look like in 2050. He spoke about the history of humanity, what it had looked like 70,000 years ago and what it looked like now. Mr Kempf feels that the conditions are roughly the same. The sources of energy are the same, and those sources are limited. The 16th and 17th Centuries brought about change to this world – history must be understood and remembered – energy consumption is the important discussion in the entire story. We heard about the rising inequality in the rich countries, the changing middle classes, the rich and super rich – the model needs to change now! We must look at the present inequality in the context of the political and ecological pressures. And in this complex situation, the Luxury industry must choose a good solution.

Responsible Media

I liked Mr Kempf’s insistence on the importance of responsible media, the need to sensitize and raise the consciousness of the world’s population about the problems we are faced with today. “Media” he said, “is not objective” and we need to see who owns the world’s media. Finally, we also need to understand the danger of inequality in this world- look at the reactions of people in Greece – Spain – France, he suggested. Kempf talked about his book “How the rich are destroying the earth”- Having heard this fascinating speaker it is now firmly on my bucket list!

Banks and the banking system did not escape – of course, banks must change their behavior, we all know that.

Taxes – an important question

Mr Kempf made a lot of sense- I look forward to hearing him again somewhere – my question to him concerned the dreaded word -TAXES. “Shouldn’t everyone, including and more importantly, corporations, pay taxes?  Why should normal citizens pay taxes on all their earnings and companies avoid paying them? Aren’t taxes used by local communities to pay for schools, roads, community services?  If corporations work in countries outside their home states, wouldn’t it seem normal to require them to pay their normal dues?”, I asked. Well, Mr Kempf agrees with me on this one!!!

Drs Christophe Gironde and Cedric Dupont from the Graduate Institute in Geneva updated us issues pertaining to business and the day was rounded up by an inspiring presentation given by Yves Daccord, Director General,  International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Mr Daccord began by talking about the importance of dreams- we live in a world that is full of poverty, with failing health system and political tensions, “Everyone needs to dream”, he said.

Business in a world of Conflict and the importance of Dreams

Davos, said Mr Daccord, has become very interested in war as it affects business.  Business has to deal with situations like those existing in Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia right now (I saw many people in our audience nod their heads in agreement as he said this). And the problem is- big countries cannot sit down and agree on how to solve the problems that exist. Migration, cyber problems, were mentioned as being very problematic. Companies are suffering from cyber-attacks as we speak but the diplomatic process doesn’t allow for the finding of solutions- for convergence. The result – fragmented and globalized world.

Mr Daccord told us that the ICRC goes everywhere in the world and he has noticed how connected people are everywhere, today.  Trust, says Mr Daccord, is rare.  People want proof and humility is important; “We need people who are radically principled”, he said.

Collaboration, Coordination and Co-Creation in a VUCA world

What was my takeaway from Yves Daccord’s presentation?  In this complex world we need coordination, collaboration and co creation in order to find new solutions.  Luxury industry is one of the only businesses that have managed their product and brand. The importance of proximity, working with your people, the relationship with your customers, these were emphasized by this inspiring speaker.

We live in a world that is a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – business needs to be agile and authentic.

And people need hope.

Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, BCL, LL.M, Solicitor


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