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Speaking at the World Economic Forum in China


World Economic Forum Summer Davos MeetingFriends,

I have just returned from Dalian China and the World Economic Forums SUMMER DAVOS meeting which I was privileged to attend in my capacity as a Young Global Leader and as a panelist.

The official spiel for the meeting says that the meeting: “… provides a platform for emerging, high-growth companies to work alongside already established global companies and top political and academic leaders to identify fresh new ideas and innovative new technologies that will lead to further global growth….” That’s another way to say it’s a hyper meeting featuring the planet’s most high powered bankers, mega business people, political honchos, super techies, [and of course , a shoemaker ]…. all coming together to mega wheel and deal and throw out various ideas on how to improve the state of the world. 

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu Backstage

The whole thing is inspiring. It’s enlightening, and a bit intimidating, and even infuriating. Let’s face it: it takes some kind of OOOMPH to say you’ve got answers to the world’s problems.

The overall theme of this year’s jamboree was MASTERING QUALITY GROWTH

My Panel was titled New Frontiers of Consumption. Our aim with this panel was to examine emerging and frontier markets, youth consumer attitudes, the role of technology, and how to satisfy the demand for quality and sustainability. It was a discussion that was as dynamic as the subject and the forum itself.

Prior to your panel its full rock star treatment as you are sequestered backstage waiting to be brought out onto the stage. 

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu at World Economic ForumOnce onstage, you realize there are people here. Lots of them. To see me!!!?!?! and listen to what I have to say!!!?!??!?? And wait a minute, is that the founder of GOOGLE ?!??!?! and Facebook ?!?!?!? and INFOSPACE !!!?!?!?!!?????? Ok. Quickly realize this thing is BIG. Then there is a long pause and, mercifully, the adrenaline kicks in….. so on we rolled!!!

I think I did ok [ ]

But there were some loud thuds in the audience during my talk - must have been marketing people falling off their chairs when I suggested that we stop looking at consumers as consumers and start looking at them as what they are: people!!!

Here are some more highlights:

  • Future trends in consumption are being defined by emerging markets, whose demographic strength is shifting economic power away from the West.
  • The spread of technology is allowing consumers, especially the young, have a greater say in what they consume, and has increased knowledge of the social impacts of production.
  • The current model of consumption growth is environmentally unsustainable. There are simply not enough raw materials in the world to provide billions more consumers with the level of material consumption traditionally enjoyed by the West.

There is a debate over whether a shift to sustainable consumption should be driven by governments or consumers. While more informed consumers lead to more demand for sustainable consumption, advocates for government action argue that strong regulation – as well as accurate pricing of environmental and social costs – is needed to shift consumption growth from dwindling finite resources to non-material growth.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu at World Economic Forum

Bethlehem Alemu of soleRebels

soleRebels Founder at World Economic Forum

Bethlehem Alemu of soleRebels at WEF

Annual Meeting of New Champions 2011

World Economic Forum