One of the many products created in the current paradigm of international institutions and treaties with countless signatures is that strong leadership demands global responsibility. If this is well-defined and consistent, accountability can take place at the local level. So what does global responsibility: local accountability look like?

Global Responsibility

The rise of populism in 2016 demonstrates that there is something awry in the current leadership sphere. The theme of this year’s meeting in Davos – ‘Responsible and Responsive leadership’ – is more pressing and relevant, given the tumultuous events of 2016.

It was a year that left power-makers in disarray, political systems in turmoil, economic markets in a state of uncertainty and the prescient fear of renewed military hostility.

If one of the emerging themes that arose in the last year was frustration in institutional decision-making, what changes are required to ensure better leadership in the future?

The Challenge of Versatility

Firstly, the data revolution needs to take place across all sectors. Governments, investors, and the voluntary sector all need to join businesses in smart data investment to affirm – and sometimes challenge – their judgement.

Having the ability to assess trends on a global and local level is a challenge that all large institutions are facing.

It requires live data sets that have the flexibility to be refined and the scope adapted depending on the decisions you are making. In a world of open source applications, data sets must be open enough to probe, explore, and understand.

Relevant data can keep all forms of organizations – governments and corporates – up to date with these challenges. How in tune with public sentiment were the political campaigns leading up to Brexit or Trump? The opinion polls were wrong on both occasions – and one hopes that social media monitoring is an increased part of data monitoring by the next election.

Eyes on Davos

Corporate leaders would be wise to observe the events at Davos, and the lessons learned over the past year. The challenges Government’s face in establishing global responsibility is also a challenge that businesses will increasingly face as more corporate partnerships are formed to drive sustainable development.

We are already seeing that agreements like COP21 are threatened if collaborative responsibility only lasts for the length of an election cycle. Corporations can safeguard such regress through championing integrated thinking throughout the organization.

China’s Arrival at Davos

The theme of Davos is further challenged by the star guest. For the first time, the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, is in attendance. The peculiarity of China’s arrival at Davos this year was well observed by Forbes’ Douglas Bulloch: ‘it is a strange turn of events when the biggest name attending a summit premised on the free exchange of ideas, progressive politics and the triumph of the internet in facilitating these, will be the head of a state where censorship is routine, progressive politics forbidden and the internet largely blocked.’

The timing of China’s presence has raised several eyebrows. However, it is also a positive indication of their willingness to participate in world issues. Their own leadership example may pose more questions than it provides answers, but their contribution is vital in the strengthening of global cooperation – one of the five main risks identified in this year’s risk report.

The upcoming Presidential inauguration raises more than the slight possibility that on a political level, there may not be global responsibility. The response of Mike Tyrrell of SRI-Connect is one of pragmatism. Replacing ‘mild mannered advocacy’, Tyrrell recommends becoming ‘aggressive sustainable investors’.

It is with this new sense of urgency that we must frame the outlook on global responsibility facilitating local accountability. That is the aim, the aspiration, but we must be prepared to accept that in an imperfect situation, leadership might also be required at the local.

Public opinion is changing rapidly. There is an expectation that corporate responsibility is displayed over a global outlook. This is where our platforms are able to advance business responsibility and local accountability for the largest companies. They provide quick and robust solutions to identifying and monitoring industry trends, improving performance on ESG reporting, and speeding up corporate accountability on all fronts.

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