10 March 2020
What the Alpbach Forum taught Impact Hub about building businesses of the future

Smog in the Balkans, Bushfires in Australia and warm water in Antarctica. The future of our planet is becoming more uncertain and less avoidable with every natural disaster that occurs. The world’s population is living beyond its means and the looming reality of resource scarcity is making our current economic models unsustainable. By 2030, global demand for water will increase by 40% and for energy by 50%. As consumers are realizing that change is needed, their spending behavior is also changing. An Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum in December 2019 showed that two-thirds of adults surveyed across 28 countries (69%) say they have made changes to their consumer behavior out of concern over climate change. 

The mindset of consumers is changing

With such a fundamental shift in the mindset of their customers, businesses are having to reconsider their approach, not only to ensure that they are sustainable in terms of resourcing but to guarantee their appeal to consumers. This was one of the dominant themes at 2019’s Alpach Forum, a European Gathering which connects international decision-makers from all sectors of society and addresses the relevant socio-political questions of our time.

What is the Alpbach Forum?

Held annually in Vienna, Austria, the event runs for two weeks in August and consists of a range of different educational programs. This includes a seminar week, dubbed ‘the academic heart of the forum’ – where innovative knowledge transfer occurs across disciplines, the Tyrol Days – focused on research and its’ development, an agenda of Arts and Cultural events and a series of symposia on health, financial, political and legal technological and economic sectors. Within the forum, the sessions explore and discuss some of today’s most pressing and complex issues and questions, such as: ‘Capitalism vs. Democracy – A Power Struggle?’, ‘Europe’s Dream of a Leading Role in the World’ and ‘Gearing up for Cyber Attacks’. 

Who attended the event?

Last August, Impact Hub’s Executive Director Gabriela Gandel attended Alpach and took part in a round table debate about another hugely relevant topic:  ‘The ‘How To’ in Building Future-Ready Businesses’. Gabriela was joined by figureheads from a variety of areas, including Sandrine Dixson-Declève Co-President, Club of Rome, Senior Advisor and Facilitator, Corporate Purpose, Sustainability, and Low Carbon Solutions, Brussels Rüdiger Fox, Chief Executive Officer, Sympatex Technologies GmbH, Unterfoehring, and Michael Menhart Chief Economist from Munich Re in Munich. 

What was on the agenda? 

The session had an audience of 250 people and consisted of two round table debates, one covering how businesses can transform to be future ready and the other discussing why businesses should act on the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Agreed on by the UN’s General Assembly in 2015, the 17 SDGs cover all the areas that need to change in order for the world to become fair and equal. The panel discussed both the risks and opportunities of both action and inaction on this agenda and took questions from the public on both topics from the Alpbach Forum app. 

Measuring our impact using the SDGs 

From Goal 1 of Zero Poverty to Goal 9 of Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Impact Hub has been acknowledged by the United Nations Office in Geneva as helping not only to foster but also to extend the efforts directed to tackle the SDGs using entrepreneurial and innovative solutions. Indeed, Impact Hub uses the SDGs as a lens through which to view and measure our impact in the world. This puts us in a good position to take part in the conversation about ‘how businesses can contribute to achieving the SDGs in a constructive and maintainable way’. Not only did the group acknowledge the reasons for businesses needing to come together to achieve such vital change, but also proposed and discussed initiatives that businesses could take part in to make it happen. 

Actions need to be taken for change to occur

There was a big focus on the level of resources that are required to match the increasing demand and the reality of what that will mean to investment at the Alpbach meeting. The discussion centered around what is needed both in financial and infrastructural terms for businesses. It was acknowledged that not doing anything and being inactive may feel like less of a risk and certainly, may save money in the short term, however, there is a long-term risk in ignoring the issues that may fundamentally threaten a businesses future. 

To build a business that is ready and equipped to be successful for the future takes planning, development and action. It’s equally important to have as many resources available to you, and be surrounded by people who share the same change-making values as you. Being involved in events such as Alpbach and engaging in discussions with other leaders is an element Impact Hub is proud of. It highlights the connective power of the network and shows our dedication to supporting entrepreneurs with skills and knowledge for building their businesses. Impact Hub was proud to take part in the round table event and the Alpbach Forum and looks forward to attending next year.

Alpbach is accepting applications for the 2020 Scholarship Programme until March 31, 2020.