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Our 3 takeaways from being onsite at Davos alongside the 54th World Economic Forum

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January 24, 2024

inriver CEO Niels Stenfeldt and inriver CMO Brooke Cunningham share their insight from the 2024 World Economic Forum.

Reflecting on our transformative experience during the 54th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, we are struck by the impact of convening amongst such stunning surroundings. The snow-covered Alps were a constant reminder of the urgency our planet faces and the steps we must take now to protect it. 

This year’s overarching theme, “Rebuilding Trust,” resonated deeply with us at inriver. I, Brooke Cunningham, CMO of inriver joined our CEO Niels Stenfeldt onsite at Davos. Niels was fortunate to sit down with accomplished journalist Olivia Kinghorst as part of the Forum Interviews. Niels and Olivia explored the connection between product data and circularity, and how new regulations are fast-tracking the need for brands and manufacturers to track, manage, and report on new data points.  

We are incredibly honored to have had this unique opportunity and would like to share our top 3 takeaways from speaking alongside this event. 

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1. It all starts with trust, and trust requires transparency 

Whether it’s within our own organizations, across partnerships, or a global network, progress cannot be made without a foundation of trust. Incidentally, trust and collaboration are two key words we are channeling at inriver as we kick off 2024 conversations with customers and partners. Seeing these same themes play out in tackling major global issues feels like no coincidence.   

Rebuilding trust amongst consumers, corporations, and government entities was center stage at Davos. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF stated “Open, transparent conversations can restore mutual trust between individuals and nations who, out of fear for their own future, prioritize their own interests.” 

At inriver, we believe transparency is the language of trust. In our world of product information management, accurate and openly shared product data is how corporations can give consumers transparency to build that trust. Neils wrote on this recently in an article on circularity for Reuters: “If two different factories produce the same product, but one factory can do so with a lower CO2 footprint or with more recycled materials than the other, the seller of that product needs to be able to capture and communicate this difference to their customers. This information provides an opportunity to deepen trust and loyalty, or even charge a premium price for sustainable practices.” 

group of wind turbines on mountain ridge snowy atmosphere

2. Long-term strategies for climate, nature, and energy must involve supplier engagement 

Stefan Klebert, CEO of GEA—one of the largest suppliers for food processing technology and of related industries—offered thoughts on corporate climate action with three essential steps to reduce Scope 3 emissions. He said, “the shift towards stronger sustainability standards and more proactive supplier engagement by leading companies is a significant – and welcome – development. But by joining forces, we can amplify the impact and motivate a broader range of suppliers.” 

At inriver, we could not agree more, and in fact, have been thinking deeply about the role product data will play in reducing carbon emissions. In his conversation with Olivia, Niels shared a vision about how brands can work with suppliers to gather additional product data and begin to map their production processes to create a blueprint for future legislation including the upcoming Digital Product Passport (DPP). “If you take total emissions on greenhouse gases, 32% of it comes from the industrial manufacturing” Niels explained, “A third of that 32% is just steel. So, we will have a Digital Product Passport, just on steel. We could focus on that, but we also could look at the full 32% of the industry emissions… We want to be competitive; we want to find reliable solutions so we reduce those emissions.” 

To track new attributes such as Scope 3 emissions, materials usage, and other environmental impacts, organizations will have no choice but to expand the amount of information they manage for a given product. This means a product’s full dataset will grow more complex, which is where technology solutions like Product Information Management (PIM) enter the picture. More importantly, the data model supporting PIM solutions will need to be elastic and robust to handle a massive volume of attributes and to accommodate changes in attribute relationships over time. Seeing these connections brought to life and validated by other leaders at Davos encourages us that we are on the right path at inriver with our PIM solution

3. Embracing sustainability metrics has elevated to the C-Suite 

The session on “Beyond the Sustainability Metrics: The Burden of Proof” resonated with our focus on product data governance. Amanda Drury moderated the insightful session, opening the conversation with the observation that reporting on sustainability in the past was done voluntarily, but that’s changing now. “It’s not just a nice to do – it’s a must do. Capital markets are integrating these mandatory sustainability disclosures with the premise as well that hopefully it’s good for maximizing company returns.” When asked about her own company’s sustainability reporting, Bonnhie Chan Yiting Co-Chief Operating Officer, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), said “It has definitely moved into the C-suite and the board. It’s a standing item.” 

Amanda goes on to acknowledge the tradeoff between financial performance and investments in sustainable practices. Balancing sustainable practices with financial performance is a challenge, and inriver sees product data transparency as a pivotal tool in empowering businesses to make decisions to bolster financial performance—from the opportunity to command premium pricing by proving sustainable practices, to garnering customer loyalty. We are confident that organizations can achieve a competitive edge by using a more complete data set to drive decision making—both internally and externally—thereby extending the longevity of businesses and our planet.   

Closing thoughts 

As we conclude our journey at WEF 2024, the importance of inriver’s role in the circular economy and sustainable practices become even more evident. The urgency of our planet’s needs is clear, and we remain committed to driving positive change. As Niels told the inriver leaders just this week: We have to be part of setting the pace for industry-wide transformation. It’s bigger than just our product.  

Watch the full video of Niels and Olivia’s conversation. To learn more, join me at PIMpoint 2024, where I’ll be hosting the world’s largest PIM-focused event. 

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  • Brooke Cunningham

    Chief Marketing Officer

    As Chief Marketing Officer, Brooke is responsible for inriver's end-to-end marketing strategy.

    read more
  • Niels Stenfeldt

    Chief Executive Officer & Board Member

    Niels is inriver's Chief Executive Officer. Prior to joining inriver, he was an independent industry advisor and founder of his own advisory boutique, Lanell.

    read more