Building an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation

The Davos Manifesto

At the third European Management Symposium, the Forum broadened its European focus, picking the theme “Shaping Your Future in Europe”.

1973

At the third European Management Symposium, the Forum broadened its European focus, picking the theme “Shaping Your Future in Europe”. His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was the honorary sponsor and the Commission of the European Communities renewed its patronage.

Two developments distinguished this Davos meeting. First, Aurelio Peccei, the Italian industrialist, delivered a speech summarizing The Limits to Growth, a book that had been commissioned by the Club of Rome, the global think tank that he founded. When it was published in 1972, the study had caused a sensation for calling into question the sustainability of global economic growth. The authors outlined the choices that society had to make to reconcile economic development and environmental constraints. The landmark publication sold more than 12 million copies and was translated into over 30 languages.

Second, participants took the initiative to draft a code of ethics based on Klaus Schwab’s stakeholder concept. With just one abstention, all participants approved the text in the final session of the symposium.

From its beginning, the Forum set out the principle that it should neither act as an advocacy group nor express any opinions on behalf of its members or participants. The Davos Manifesto was a rare exception to this policy.

In 1973, the Foundation began to expand its activities beyond organizing the annual Davos meeting. To add value to its services, the Forum launched three initiatives aimed at capturing and disseminating knowledge through publications, developing regional and country-focused activities, and creating communities to expand and deepen the discussion of pressing global issues.

These were:

  • the launch of Synopsis, a documentation service that provided European business leaders with information on public policy and government strategy
  • the holding of two roundtables – the first on Europe at the European Commission in Brussels in May and the second on Germany in Bonn in November – to promote interaction between the business community and European governments, including the European Commission
  • the creation of the European Club for Cooperative Management, the first high-level community of the Forum

With these initiatives and the Davos Manifesto, the European Management Forum was moving deliberately to construct a wider, more substantial platform for business, government, civil society and other stakeholders to work together to address important global issues. Klaus Schwab, who had been named Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Geneva, where he lectured until 2003, would later expand his stakeholder principle into a wider concept of global corporate citizenship, which stipulated that corporations, along with government and civil society, are themselves stakeholders in the global commons. The Forum’s own development would reflect the evolution of Schwab’s original idea.