The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 will convene in Davos with leaders from government, business, and civil society to address the state of the world and discuss priorities for the year ahead. The agenda focuses on the opportunities enabled by new technologies and their implications on decision-making and partnerships. The event occurs in a time of multiple crises and economic uncertainty. Business narratives focus on agility, resilience, and delivering stakeholder value. Corporate reports are expected to provide news on progress on this front, whether you are staying the course or having to plot a new one to achieve your objectives.
According to an Edelman “Trust in Technology” survey, strong majorities worldwide believe technological innovations can solve urgent societal challenges such as economic competitiveness and access to healthcare. And even with fears of AI making some human jobs obsolete, employees across sectors agree that technology enables more meaningful work and allows people with disabilities or care responsibilities to find employment. Companies that don’t consider technology their core business may assume these considerations are largely irrelevant. In truth, no matter the industry or geography, most organisations increasingly rely on advanced digital and physical technologies to run their day-to-day operations. Every company in 2023 is a technology company in some shape or form. As tech-related issues gain prominence in materiality assessments, they affect executive decision-making and business partnerships, so how should our corporate communication address them?
The World Economic Forum’s Davos Manifesto calls on all private corporations to act as trustees of society as part of its vision for stakeholder capitalism. So do the UK government and the FRC watchdog. Companies, governments, and organisations are expected to be active guardians of society, offering reassurance and confidence while promoting innovation.
A high-quality annual report tells your business story, articulates your purpose and a clear and compelling vision, defines and embodies the long-term possibilities for your organisation, and represents a sustainable future. How are Blockchain-enabled automation, artificial intelligence, data harnessing, and cybersecurity helping you unlock that value?
The answer may lay less in the operations than in strategy and governance. What is the purpose and culture of your firm? What benefit does your business bring to society? What value does your company create for those holding a stake in it? The corporate narrative that answers these questions meaningfully showcases a company able to talk the talk and is more likely to find a prospective audience.
Are you horizon-scanning for emerging technologies? How will you manage the risks or opportunities they bring? How sustainable – in the broadest sense of the meaning – is your business model in the new tech paradigm? How will you move forward and innovate while preserving and extending trust? The corporate report that answers these questions meaningfully showcases a company that walks the walk and is more likely to convert prospects into trusty advocates.
Fostering trust in how you handle new tech is not only about the greater good or ethical compulsions – it’s also beneficial to the bottom line. McKinsey surveyed more than 1,300 business leaders and 3,000 consumers globally. Their research indicates that organisations that establish trust in products and experiences that leverage technologies and data are more likely to see annual growth rates.
Davos will convene businesses that ask customers to have confidence in them in new and more profound ways, from soliciting personal information to tracking online behaviour through digital breadcrumbs. However, headlines regularly chronicle technology-based issues such as security hacks, inappropriate or illegal surveillance, personal data misuse, misinformation spread, algorithmic bias, and lack of transparency. The distrust these incidents breed in customers, employees, partners, investors, or regulators can significantly damage your organisation’s reputation.
There is no silver bullet to building trust in your business. But if your corporate narrative speaks to your place in society and the economy, the role of your corporate reporting is to demonstrate it. When articulating your strategies, supervision, and impact, tech is part of your ammo.
If you’d like to discuss this, or any other subject, please get in touch with Richard Costa, Senior Corporate Communications and Reporting Consultant at email@example.com
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