Will Gilroy, WFA's Director of Policy and Communications, shares key take-aways from the recent webinar with The Economist's Deputy Editor, Tom Standage.
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One of the highlights of my year is to listen to The Economist’s Deputy Editor and Editor of The World in 2021, Tom Standage, give his annual predictions for the year ahead.
2020 may have been a forecaster’s nightmare but it hasn’t stopped Tom attack 2021 with his usual jaw-dropping breadth of knowledge and relish for the killer stat.
Here are my top take-outs but I thoroughly recommend you watch Tom in full here.
A vaccine fraught with its own set of problems
We’re going to see vaccine nationalism, vaccine diplomacy, fights over vaccines… Lots of arguments over distribution, safety and awareness. Globally, many are sceptical about taking a vaccine which has been developed so quickly. The Economist estimates that every American wearing a mask could save the US economy $56 so don’t bet against people being paid to be vaccinated.
China booms despite the pandemic
China’s GDP is expected to bounce back by the end of 2021 to where forecasters were predicting it to be at the beginning of 2019. In other words, it will be as if the pandemic never happened for the Chinese economy! China will not only likely be the only country not to suffer a recession, in 2021 it will probably overtake the combined economies of the EU. China Inc’s share of the world’s stock market value has gone from 13% a decade ago to 17% now.
Companies to navigate an increasingly bipolar, disorderly world
The unravelling of the world’s rules-based order since we reached peak globalisation with the global financial crisis – and accelerated by Trump’s “wrecking ball” approach to NATO, WTO, WHO & TPP has created what The Economist calls a ‘new world disorder’. And with growing tensions between US and China, countries and companies are being asked to pick sides. It used to be oil and defence companies that were caught in the middle. Now it’s tech companies like Huawei and TikTok. Deglobalisation has even seen the likes of French wine industry and Harley Davidson caught in the line of fire over trade disputes. Expect more of the same…
And while politicians fight, people look to companies to step into the leadership vacuum
Eighty percent of Americans think companies can be a force for positive social change, 72% trust companies more than government to address the pandemic and racial injustice and 70% want CEOs to take stances on social issues - up from 60% just a year ago. This reflects the perceived ineptitude of politicians and the growing power of big tech platforms. Companies will have to learn that they cannot please all the people all the time and will have to build in geo-political considerations when considering their company purpose.
Tech-celerating into the future
McKinsey estimates that US ecommerce penetration rose from 16% to 33% in just three months, a process that was expected to take 10 years. Contactless payments, online streaming, remote learning and grocery shopping have all leapt into the future. It may not have been great for competition since this has all strengthened the hand of big players such as Amazon but it will have its upsides in areas such as healthcare and remote learning as well as nudging the world towards a more hybrid workforce, less commuting, less pollution and potentially a better work-life balance for many.
It’ll take more than a pandemic to save the planet
Climate change is driven by the total amount of CO2 in the air. As we have been pumping CO2 into the atmosphere since the 1750s, the last few months won’t have made a great difference. Tom likens it to being in a flooded room and having reduced the water coming into the room by about 8%. We need to reduce it by 100%. And then drain the room. It’s a Herculean task but cue more bike lanes, green recovery plans and ambitious climate targets such as the one that China just announced to be carbon neutral by 2060. 2020 may even go down in history as the year when car usage and carbon emissions peaked.