There is a strong sustainability theme at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012.

Why? 

Within the last 12 months, floods have cost the Thai economy US$ 45 billion, or about 7% of its GDP according to the World Bank, with wider disruption to global supply chains. Parts of China are experiencing their worst drought in 60 years. Worryingly, these events may be trends. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in November that they are at least 90% certain that hottest day events that occur once in every 20 years will occur every other year by the end of the century. They also say with at least 66% certainty that the frequency of heavy rainfall will increase, particularly in tropical regions.

The insurance sector is concerned about these trends – can they provide insurance with these shortening odds? Governments in developing countries are also responding. Many are changing their infrastructure plans. They are moving towards low-carbon energy and transport schemes and climate-resilient agriculture and water systems. This strategic shift has been termed “greening the economy”, or making a “green growth” transition.

A new global investment opportunity is emerging. Developing countries now have more than half of the world’s global renewable power capacity. And these investments are growing. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in 2011, global investment in new renewable power plants surpassed for the first time fossil fuel power plant investment.

This green economic shift is one reason why the themes of economic growth, jobs and sustainability are so closely related. Can a revolution in green investment in developing countries help rescue the global economy? What new models of partnership can make this happen?

Leaders of governments, banks and businesses will be asking these questions in Davos this week. The green thread has become a new economic thread in the Annual Meeting’s programme

The role of the citizen-consumer is also central. Eighty per cent of emerging-market consumers have more trust in a company that is socially responsible, says research conducted for the Forum’s sustainable consumption initiative.

In 2012, over two billion smart phone users will make purchases via their handsets. Given the proven ability of social media networks to create transformation quickly, the consumer dimension to sustainable growth is as important as the investment trend. CEO-led discussions at the Annual Meeting this year will explore how consumers can transform consumption patterns, and how business can anticipate and lead on these trends.