What can businesses do to make sure they play a responsible role in society, asks the World Economic Forum’s Robert Greenhill.

It has not been an easy year amidst the LIBOR scandal, Eurozone crisis, Fiscal Cliff, high unemployment and political and social unrest. Public scrutiny is intense, and the expectations from business and government to deliver employment, growth and stability are greater than ever.

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012, the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Business released the report Defining the New Business Covenant, outlining key actions that the business sector as whole could take to move from a short-term focus to a long-term vision, and from a shareholder-driven model towards a multistakeholder approach. The paper served as a call to action for business to engage with government and civil society to find collective solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Twelve months later, where are we?

In this climate of change and uncertainty, the concept of a Moral Economy has risen again. Originally applied to inequality in 18th-century England, the term is now being used to describe a desired rebalancing of the world economy, taking into consideration social needs, common values, economic expectations, limited resources and growing interconnectedness. Writes Jim Wallis of Sojourners, the Christian social justice organization: “In the face of historic deficits, our nation must make hard choices about how to balance needs and resources, while allocating both burdens and sacrifices. These tough (and unavoidable) decisions are economic, political, societal – and moral.”

If these are the expectations, how can we practically create an economy that takes into consideration the needs of multiple stakeholders? How do we realize the People, Planet, Profit concept promoted by Feike Sijbesma, the CEO of DSM?

Is there a practical basis for a shared set of social values? What principles transcend regions, generations and sectors? What role can individual leaders play in committing to broader social responsibilities? How can the stakeholders collectively reflect and fulfil these responsibilities?

These are the topics that will be explored throughout the Annual Meeting 2013, culminating in the livestreamed session “The Moral Economy: From Social Contract to Social Covenant” on Saturday 26 January, 15:30-16:30 CET. You can send in your questions ahead of time or during the session via Twitter at #wefvalues. How can we ensure that human dignity and common values are at the centre of economic pursuits? Send me your thoughts via Twitter @RobertGreenhill or leave a comment below.

Robert Greenhill is the Managing Director and Chief Business Officer, World Economic Forum.