Davos: first impressions

'Davos is not just about talking, it's about commitment'

Midway through the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Rabo delegation led by new top executive Stefaan Decraene shares its first experiences. "It's not just talk here, you really have to show commitment to take action."

The question of what makes the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos truly unique can be answered confidently by Rabobank's new top executive Stefaan Decraene. "It is my first time here and I am very excited about my first talks and meetings," he says on the morning after his first day in Davos. The day ended with a dinner at Chalet Bello on Braemabuelstrasse organized by Microsoft at which he spoke at length with both the Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and the technology company's new director of sustainability.

Acorn

"We discussed what more we could do as companies in our collaboration in the near future. That turned into an enjoyable and inspiring conversation." The partnership with U.S.-based Microsoft is one example of what "Davos" has delivered for the bank in recent years. Microsoft is a partner of Acorn, Rabobank's program to enable large-scale CO2 storage for smaller farmers in developing countries and then trade that storage. Together, Microsoft and Rabobank built a platform for tradable carbon credits, and Microsoft is one of the first and largest buyers. "And there are still wonderful opportunities ahead from this partnership to do more together," said Decraene following his dinner conversation.

Stefaan at WEF

He leads the Rabo delegation at the WEF this week and is joined by two of his colleagues from the Group Executive Board, Berry Marttin and Kirsten Konst. Marttin is a Davos veteran: he is here for the tenth time and knows better than anyone else that this forum is more than just a talking shop for world leaders and CEOs. "To really get a position here as an organization, it's not 'just talk'. You really must show here that you have commitment to take action. And that's the great thing about Rabobank, because we've really been able to develop concrete projects that originated here over the past few years," Marttin says during a walk in the cold (minus 10 degrees Celsius) along the busy Promenade, from a 'Champions for Nature' meeting to a bilateral consultation session at the Yara-run 'Earth Cafe’. Besides Acorn, there is an impressive list of projects and alliances that were born here in Davos, including the Agriculture Exchange, a strategic partnership between Rabobank and Mastercard to give five million farmers in Africa and India by 2025 access to a digital platform to sell their products, buy supply materials (seeds, fertilizers), produce more and organize access to payment services and finance with local partners. That partnership emerged three years ago from the CEO-P, an inclusive finance-focused collaboration between CEOs from PayPal, Mastercard, AXA, Unilever, Pepsico and Rabobank, among others, initiated by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. The partnership will soon be renewed for another three years.

Unique alliance

Another example is the Farm to Market Alliance, a unique alliance of agri-focused organizations working together to use their pooled knowledge and experience to develop a sustainable and profitable agricultural sector in Africa. The alliance does this by addressing the major challenges facing smallholder farmers. Through Farmer Service Centers, farmers receive training and supply and demand are brought together. The global members of the Alliance are The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Bayer, Rabobank, Syngenta, Yara, and the World Food Program (WFP).

And finally in Davos, Decraene sat in on a session of the Good Food Finance Network, the only financial coalition spawned by the UN World Food Summit in 2021. This brings together financial institutions from the public, private and multilateral sectors from all regions of the world to financially enable and accelerate the solutions of this landmark UN summit. Rabobank has been one of the initiators of this network together with the World Bank, among others.

Stefaan en Maxima

More impact

Stefaan Decraene is impressed by the large number and initiatives Rabobank is involved in and that he finds here in Davos. "It is impressive what we are all doing from Rabobank. I am now creating an overview for myself, and I have the feeling that the WEF partners I am talking to here can make even more impact if they look at where we can bundle and merge things," he says at the end of the afternoon of his second Davos day. He is gearing up for another meeting. At the SDG tent, on the lengthy Promenade on the east side of the village, Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and Queen Maxima will arrive in an hour. The queen has been coming here since 2009 in her role as special advocate of the UN Secretary-General for Inclusive Financing for Development (UNSGSA). Together with the Prime Minister, she will talk for an hour tonight with a group of CEOs of Dutch companies. Among them, therefore, also the new Belgian top executive of Rabobank Stefaan Decraene. He is looking forward to it and later this Wednesday evening he can join the WEF Nature and Climate Community Dinner where 'Inspirational Leadership' has been chosen as the theme and, in addition to Al Gore, a monk and an astronaut will share their personal stories. That too is Davos: always surprising.