We state that our mission is to enact visions for a sustainable future. Horasis' professional guidance to corporate leaders is based on three fundamental values: sustainability, principle leadership, and community building. To promote these principles, we hold annual conferences (called Business Meetings) for Indian and Chinese managers hosted in third-party countries to promote a sense of freedom for discussion. We also host two meetings with a more general focus. The first focuses on Asia and takes place in Vietnam. The second is a Global Meeting, at present hosted in Portugal. We also hold a small intimate meeting, the Horasis Visionary Circle, which aims to be the world’s most trusted peer-to-peer group of entrepreneurs: they meet in extraordinary venues providing a unique discussion forum. All in all, we offer open discussion, broadly under the ‘Chatham House Rule’ where direct media reporting from panels and plenary sessions is not allowed, though a ‘Media Corner’ is established for interviews during the meetings, and our post-meeting reports are available on our website.
Our last Global Meeting was held in early April 2019 in Cascais, Portugal under the patronage of the City of Cascais and the Portuguese government. The meeting attracted 800 delegates from 70 nations, including two Presidents, several former Presidents and many Ministers of State who, along with CEOs of businesses from around the world, contributed their thoughts in plenary and panel discussions, or more intimately at coffee breaks. Its theme was ‘Capitalising the Benefits of Globalisation’.
The meeting noted that globalisation has always been with us – from the time when roving tribes exchanged goods, through to the Old Silk Road, and now to the modern one known as the Belt and Road initiative. We perceived that the rapid expansion of global trade, essentially after World War II, had benefitted the rich and harmed the poor. Globalisation at present is not of equal benefit to all, but with care, the disadvantaged can be brought out of poverty and women can be brought into work. China rapidly expanded its back-bone infrastructures and lifted millions above the $2 per-day baseline: we suggested that if they can do it, so can other nations. But we must do this in ways that protect the dignity of all, especially the elderly, and in ways that increase diversity in the workplace.
Dignity was an important theme that cropped up in the many discussions about the future of business and work. Digitised technology in the form of blockchains are likely to pervade all our transactions, ensuring end-to-end control of goods and cash; they will revolutionise transparency and raise honesty (and trust too) through our supply chains, enhancing the benefits of globalisation. Closely coupled with increasing globalisation is the realisation that robotics will change the nature of work for two main reasons. Firstly, speed and effectiveness in the workplace will be enhanced compared with human endeavour. Secondly, the global population is growing at a slower pace, though it is uneven across countries. In Japan, a country which has the oldest average age, there is a need to find robots to take over from the aging workforce, including in the healthcare sector. Yet, among all the talk of the need to be effective and profitable by investing in robots, there was the acknowledgment that we need to preserve the dignity of those displaced from work to idleness, and for the elderly who may not have enough human care and live in solitude, even in residential homes.
Dignity is closely connected to sustainability and the ‘takeaways’ from the meeting were that firms must ‘walk the talk’ and engage in diversity thoroughly throughout their staffing mix. This emphasis on diversity can be enabled through positive training and mentoring to ensure a broad spectrum of able, top staff, who are committed to deep sustainability. Furthermore, to aid greater diversity, governments ought to push ahead strongly on the three pillars of education, infrastructure and the environment – changes which will take time to come to fruition. In the present regime of quarterly pressure on firms to present their data (pressing them to be short-term in their outlook and strategy), it is only governments who can enact longer-term policies. But governments cannot do this alone through edict or regulations. They must rely on managers in commerce, production and finance to increase trust in all institutions. We see too much corruption and fraud being exposed in the courts and we all wonder ‘what next?’ Therefore, governance and ethics must be strengthened, and the public must become involved in the process, including asking the media to be less inflammatory.
Through the exchange of views at the Horasis Meetings we hope that, given a deepening perception of a fairer, more equable world, populism might retract, leaving vigorous nationalism, but without protectionist isolation so we may re-catalyse sustainable globalisation.