In January, thousands of world leaders from over a hundred countries gathered in the mountainous town of Davos in Switzerland for the 2023 World Economic Forum to discuss about pressing issues surrounding energy, social equity, and climate issues, and how these come together to affect businesses.

In the heart of things was Cherine Fok, Partner, KPMG ESG, who also attended the five-day event in January this year. 

She shares with us her takeaways and motivations to attend the WEF:


Q: Let’s start with why you decided to attend the forum in Davos – it was must have been quite a journey. What were your motivations?

A: I believe we should have an active voice in shaping issues of our generation. Some of my clients who are leaders in the environment, social, and governance (ESG) space have been sending over delegations to the forum. It was important for Singapore to be there. The issues highlighted at the forum could have far-reaching effects for all industries, as the topics discussed cover everything including supply chain volatility, energy transition, availability of natural resources, social transformation and biodiversity. All these areas are relevant to Singapore and having an improved understanding of them will no doubt bring us many advantages. 


Q: For a small country like Singapore, some may question how much of an impact we are able to make at such global events. How were you able to value-add, and similarly what were some of your key takeaways?

A: We’d be surprised by how much of an impact we can have if we choose to put our minds to it. Much more than what we would have if we chose not to participate in these dialogues – from Davos to other national and international platforms. Making our voices heard on these global stages can influence policy makers, thereby significantly changing the lives of populations and countries.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, I had the opportunity to interact with representatives from different segments of the society, including government officials, policy makers, and large foreign companies – gaining a cross-border perspective of ESG, upcoming regulations and its implications for businesses. It gave me valuable insight into upcoming opportunities and trends that can be leveraged.

For example, the impact of an ageing population on an economy was a key topic discussed at the WEF.  As Singapore is facing similar challenges in this area, it was interesting to learn how other countries are tackling them through public-private sector collaborations. It's a useful reference point for us too as it provides inspiration for new ideas which will enhance our economic and social policies here at home.

Another example I picked up on was the implications of regulatory and tax developments across the world on Singapore enterprises that are part of global supply chains. The energy transition, for instance, has far-reaching effects for our economy - from importing clean energy to energy security concerns and green manufacturing growth. It is critical that we ensure we're adequately prepared for a successful transition which includes acquiring new green skills in order to succeed.


Q: Why do you think getting into ESG is important – work-wise and also on the personal front?

A: ESG is essentially about purpose.

On a personal level, having a strong sense of purpose is key - particularly when it comes to making ESG-driven decisions. Not only will this help motivate us and inspire others to create positive change; understanding ESG is critical for staying relevant in the workforce.

The world is currently undergoing rapid environmental and social developments that are drastically transforming how capital markets, governments and businesses now behave, and how enterprise value is determined. As professionals within these fields, we must be prepared to explore new operating models and growth strategies with our clients - this can only be done by looking at the bigger picture through a multi-disciplinary lens. When we are able to provide meaningful insights and solutions when businesses face immense uncertainty, we have the opportunity to build trust in our firm more effectively.