Non-profit

World Economic Forum

Tax ID:

98-0459408

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(6)

Budget (2019):

Revenue: $338,156,853
Expenses: $316,507,118
Assets: $607,640,514

Website:

https://www.weforum.org/

Location:

Geneva, Switzerland

Formation:

1971

Executive Chairman:

Klaus Schwab

Type:

International conference

The World Economic Forum is a business league that primarily organizes annual meetings of international business and political leaders in Davos, Switzerland under the direction of its founder and executive director, University of Geneva business professor Klaus Schwab.

Due in part to the group’s ties to influential figures in international business and geopolitics, the WEF has been a subject of legitimate controversy and unfounded conspiracy theories. In 2020, the WEF’s annual meeting agenda advocated using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to restructure the global economy along collectivistic and interventionist means and went by the title “Great Reset.” The “Great Reset” proposals and discussions have been highly influential in Western nations including the United States under President Joe Biden; this influence has inspired unfounded conspiracy theories accusing a global elite of using the pandemic to expand their power.

History

The World Economic Forum (originally known as the European Management Forum) was founded in Switzerland in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, now an honorary business professor at the University of Geneva. With support from the Commission of the European Communities (a predecessor organization to the European Commission under the later European Union, Schwab organized a conference in Davos, Switzerland attended by hundreds of executives from major Western European companies, primarily to discuss the theory of “stakeholder capitalism” as an alternative to traditional business models. These annual conferences served as a meeting for business and political leaders over the following 50 years to discuss major economic and political events, including German reunification, the end of the Cold War, the end of South African apartheid, the aftermath of 9/11, and the 2008 Great Recession. [1]

Klaus Schwab

Klaus Schwab is an influential engineer and economist, and the founder of the World Economic Forum. Schwab was born in Ravensburg, Germany in 1938 to Swiss parents. His family was monitored by the Gestapo and his mother was once arrested for speaking the Swiss-German dialect. Near the end of World War II, his family moved back to Switzerland, but later returned to West Germany. Schwab has always been a German citizen and is the only member of his immediate family without Swiss citizenship. [2]

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Schwab worked for numerous engineering companies, eventually entering management. By the mid-1960s, Schwab had five degrees in engineering and economics. In 1971, he founded the World Economic Forum. The following year, he became a business professor at the University of Geneva. In 2003, he transitioned to an honorary role. [3] [4]

From 1993-1995, Schwab was a member of the United Nations’ High-Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development. From 1996-1998, he was vice-chairman of the United Nations Committee for Development Planning. He was formerly a member of the steering committee of the Bilderberg Meeting and is a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council. [5] [6]

Succession Controversy

In 2003, former Costa Rica president Jose Maria Figueres Olsen became the first CEO of the WEF, succeeding Schwab in his leadership role. [7] The following year, Olsen resigned following revelations that he had accepted $900,000 in previously undisclosed consultancy fees from French telecommunications company Alcatel in violation of WEF rules. [8]

Government Funding Controversy

Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum have been criticized for receiving funding from the Swiss government. In 2021, the Swiss government announced it was paying $2.7 million for security for the WEF despite the organization having hundreds of millions of dollars in cash reserves. Schwab has been criticized for earning around $1 million per year from the WEF, despite his criticisms of high executive pay. [9] [10]

The “Davos Manifesto”

In 1971, Klaus Schwab described “stakeholder capitalism” to the World Economic Forum, a business theory that prioritizes “stakeholders” over “shareholders.” In standard modern economic theory, businesses exist for the sake of their owners (or shareholders for corporations) who invest their wealth on expectation of returns; stakeholder theory expands the understanding of business beneficiaries beyond shareholders to all individuals impacted by a particular business, including its employees, customers, suppliers, individuals impacted by environmental effects, and so forth. [11] [12]

In 1973, attendees of the WEF’s annual conference drafted and signed a “code of ethics” for businesses based on stakeholder theory. The code would later become knows as the first “Davos Manifesto.” The code starts: [13]

The purpose of professional management is to serve clients, shareholders, workers and employees, as well as societies, and to harmonize the different interests of the stakeholders. [14]

For the 2020 annual conference, Schwab wrote the “Davos Manifesto 2020,” which updated the original manifesto’s principals. The first part of the code was updated to: [15]

The purpose of a company is to engage all its stakeholders in shared and sustained value creation. In creating such value, a company serves not only its shareholders, but all its stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers, local communities and society at large. The best way to understand and harmonize the divergent interests of all stakeholders is through a shared commitment to policies and decisions that strengthen the long-term prosperity of a company.

The update especially expanded corporate responsibility into broader social aims: [16]

A company is more than an economic unit generating wealth. It fulfils human and societal aspirations as part of the broader social system. Performance must be measured not only on the return to shareholders, but also on how it achieves its environmental, social and good governance objectives. Executive remuneration should reflect stakeholder responsibility.

The Great Reset

In June 2020, the World Economic Forum announced its 50th annual conference, which was entitled the “Great Reset.” The WEF laid out ambitious plans to “reshape the world” after the COVID-19 pandemic. Critics, including voices from the mainstream media as well as far-right and far-left conspiracy theorists, have framed the Great Reset as an attempt by international elites to enhance their power over the global economy, either due to misguided benevolence or nefarious conspiracy. This critique has been encapsulated by the term “Great Reset,” which is now used as a general concept for elites seizing power during a time of crisis. [17]

Systemic Problems Revealed by COVID-19

The Great Reset program was premised on the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed systemic weaknesses in the global economic and political system. First, it demonstrated the inverse relationship between economic activity and environmental health, since lockdowns generated positive environmental trends in some parts of the world. Second, the pandemic revealed social and economic inequalities, since the poor (both globally and within developed nations) faced harsher economic repercussions from the pandemic and the lockdowns. Third, the pandemic demonstrated the importance of economic value production, given the global GDP reduction caused primarily by the lockdowns. [18]

Policy Proposals

The Great Reset proposed an array of policy suggestions to fix the systemic economic and political problems revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic with a “symbiosis between people, planet and profit,” as contrasted with a singular focus on profit. Supposedly, problems are primarily caused by private actors exploiting and consuming finite common resources which create externalities to the planet’s detriment. Thus, WEF’s Great Reset program calls for numerous measures which enhance the authority of governments and multi-national government organizations to regulate the economy and change the legal system. [19]

In a piece written by Schwab, he predicated the Great Reset agenda on three components. The first involved “changes to wealth taxes, the withdrawal of fossil-fuel subsidies, and new rules governing intellectual property, trade, and competition” to “steer the market toward fairer outcomes.” The second proposed using COVID-19 spending programs to advance “equality and sustainability” by “building ‘green’ urban infrastructure and creating incentives for industries to improve their track record on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.” The third proposed expanding upon COVID-era teleconferencing, surveillance, and research and development strategies to advance the “public good” as part of Schwab’s theorized “fourth industrial revolution.” [20]

WEF proposes that though private actors are often morally in support of measures to restrain private control over resources for the sake of the greater good, they often forgo altruistic policies due to responsibility diffusion. A combination of corporate cultural changes and legal policies both to restrict and subsidize corporate behavior, are needed to shift global business to support the principals laid out in the Davos Manifesto and many of the tenets of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) theory. [21] [22]

Additionally, businesses must form larger groupings and coalitions under government direction to “collaborate” on specific policy goals. For instance, deforestation and other environmental challenges can only be met through large-scale cooperative action, necessitating these coalitions. [23]

Fourth Industrial Revolution

A major component of the Great Reset is a concept known as the “fourth industrial revolution” originally coined by WEF founder Klaus Schwab. [24] This proposed fourth industrial revolution is driven by a fusion of technologies to create productivity breakthroughs, for instance in robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and energy storage. The Great Reset argues that this revolution will be as disruptive to economic and political order as previous industrial revolutions, and therefore world leaders should use the pandemic to introduce legal and social reforms to smooth this new transition. [25]

Policy Impact

Many political leaders have endorsed some or part of the Great Reset proposals, including U.S. President Joe Biden, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. [26]

Some of President Biden’s early policies have been interpreted as having aligned with the Great Reset principles. President Biden increased the government’s commitment to fighting climate change by creating the new U.S. Special Envoy for Climate position and appointing former U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who participated in the WEF’s 2020 Great Reset conference and declared President Biden’s support for it. [27] [28] President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, a proposal to expand the welfare state and the government’s power over the economy, has been described as a Great Reset-aligned initiative. [29]

Conspiracy Theories

The Great Reset has inspired conspiracy theories about global elites using the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to gain more power over the world’s economic, political, and social systems. Some conspiracy theorists have claimed that the pandemic itself was instituted for this purpose. [30]

In October 2020, Catholic Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote an open letter to then-President Donald Trump alleging a “global plan called the Great Reset” was created by “a global elite that wants to subdue all of humanity.” [31]

The letter fit into numerous existing COVID-19 conspiracy theories. In November 2020, a video of Prime Minister Trudeau speaking at the United Nations circulated on Twitter in which he said the pandemic created an opportunity “to accelerate our pre-pandemic efforts to re-imagine economic systems that actually address global challenges like extreme poverty, inequality, and climate change.” [32]

Some conspiracy theorists focused on the “fourth industrial revolution” concept as a concept to enslave humanity. On a YouTube video with hundreds of thousands of views, Spiro Skournas said: [33]

This is not about saving the planet, this is not about equality, this is about control…They want to redefine what it means to be human and determine for you your role and your future of being essentially a transhumanist cyborg integrated into this new control grid…where we will be unable to distinguish organic life from artificial. We won’t even have access to our own thoughts or we’ll have access to them, but we won’t even be able to control our own thoughts and emotions because they’re going to do that for us because we’re going to be tied into their grid system. [34]

References

  1. “The World Economic Forum at 50: A timeline of highlights from Davos and beyond.” World Economic Forum. December 20, 2019. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/world-economic-forum-davos-at-50-history-a-timeline-of-highlights/. ^
  2. Mueller, Patrick; Maurer, Andreas. “Ein unmögliches Geschenk: Weshalb die Einbürgerung von WEF-Gründer Klaus Schwab scheitern wird.” Aargauer Zeitung. August 19, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.aargauerzeitung.ch/schweiz/ein-unmogliches-geschenk-weshalb-die-einburgerung-von-wef-grunder-klaus-schwab-scheitern-wird-ld.1144493. ^
  3. “Professor Klaus Schwab.” World Economic Forum. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_ProfessorKlausSchwab_Factsheet.pdf. ^
  4. Gaffney, Adrienne. “Getting to Know Klaus Schwab, The Man Behind Davos.” Vanity Fair. January 30, 2009. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tTogDg5flFgJ:https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2009/01/getting-to-know-klaus-schwab-the-man-behind-davos+&cd=19&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us. ^
  5. “Professor Klaus Schwab.” World Economic Forum. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_ProfessorKlausSchwab_Factsheet.pdf. ^
  6. “Governance.” Bilderberg Meetings. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20140202095633/http://www.bilderbergmeetings.org/former-steering-committee-members.html. ^
  7. [1] “José María Figueres Olsen.” EAT Forum. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://eatforum.org/person/jose-maria-figueres-olsen/. ^
  8. “WEF director resigns over undeclared fees.” Swissinfo.ch. October 29, 2004. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/wef-director-resigns-over-undeclared-fees/4171240. ^
  9. “„Zu hohe Managergehälter sind nicht mehr sozial verträglich“.” Faz.net. January 20, 2013. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/weltwirtschaftsforum/wef-gruender-schwab-zu-hohe-managergehaelter-sind-nicht-mehr-sozial-vertraeglich-12031146.html. ^
  10. “Snarling approval of WEF funds from the Council of States.” SRF. June 11, 2021. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/geld-fuer-sicherheit-am-wef-knurrende-zustimmung-vom-staenderat-zu-wef-geldern. ^
  11. Bhattacharya, CB. “How the great COVID-19 reset can help firms build a sustainable future.” World Economic Forum. May 15, 2020. Accessed January 29, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/the-covid-19-reset-sustainability/. ^
  12. Schwab, Klaus. “Why we need the ‘Davos Manifesto’ for a better kind of capitalism.” World Economic Forum. December 1, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/why-we-need-the-davos-manifesto-for-better-kind-of-capitalism/. ^
  13. “A Partner in Shaping History The First 40 Years 1971-2010.” World Economic Forum. 2009. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_First40Years_Book_2010.pdf. ^
  14. “A Partner in Shaping History The First 40 Years 1971-2010.” World Economic Forum. 2009. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_First40Years_Book_2010.pdf. ^
  15. Schwab, Klaus. “Davos Manifesto 2020: The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” World Economic Forum. December 2, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/davos-manifesto-2020-the-universal-purpose-of-a-company-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution. ^
  16. Schwab, Klaus. “Davos Manifesto 2020: The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” World Economic Forum. December 2, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/davos-manifesto-2020-the-universal-purpose-of-a-company-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution. ^
  17. Inman, Philip. “Pandemic is chance to reset global economy, says Prince Charles.” The Guardian. June 3, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/03/pandemic-is-chance-to-reset-global-economy-says-prince-charles. ^
  18. Bhattacharya, CB. “How the great COVID-19 reset can help firms build a sustainable future.” World Economic Forum. May 15, 2020. Accessed January 29, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/the-covid-19-reset-sustainability/. ^
  19. [1] Schwab, Klaus. “Now is the time for a ‘great reset’.” World Economic Forum. June 3, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/now-is-the-time-for-a-great-reset/. ^
  20. Schwab, Klaus. “Now Is the Time for a ‘Great Reset’.” World Economic Forum. Accessed February 14, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/now-is-the-time-for-a-great-reset/. ^
  21. Bhattacharya, CB. “How the great COVID-19 reset can help firms build a sustainable future.” World Economic Forum. May 15, 2020. Accessed January 29, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/the-covid-19-reset-sustainability/. ^
  22. Schwab, Klaus. “Now is the time for a ‘great reset’.” World Economic Forum. June 3, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/now-is-the-time-for-a-great-reset/. ^
  23. Bhattacharya, CB. “How the great COVID-19 reset can help firms build a sustainable future.” World Economic Forum. May 15, 2020. Accessed January 29, 2022. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/the-covid-19-reset-sustainability/. ^
  24. “What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” Industrial Analytics Platform. January 2021. Accessed February 13, 2022. https://iap.unido.org/articles/what-fourth-industrial-revolution#:~:text=The%20Fourth%20Industrial%20Revolution%20(4IR,World%20Economic%20Forum%20(WEF).. ^
  25. Jose, Sajai. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Great Reset and the global resistance to come.” Radical Ecological Democracy. July 4, 2021. Accessed January 29, 2022. https://radicalecologicaldemocracy.org/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-the-great-reset-and-the-global-resistance-to-come/. ^
  26. Wherry, Aaron. “The ‘Great Reset’ reads like a globalist plot with some plot holes.” CBC. November 27, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/great-reset-trudeau-poilievre-otoole-pandemic-covid-1.5817973. ^
  27. “Great Reset Dialogues. Six Leaders discuss why we must reform the social contract after COVID-19.” YouTube. June 26, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddGQTcuV-eg. ^
  28. Haskins, Justin. “John Kerry reveals Biden’s devotion to radical ‘Great Reset’ movement.” The Hill. December 3, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/528482-john-kerry-reveals-bidens-devotion-to-radical-great-reset-movement. ^
  29. Labonte, Ronald. “A post-covid economy for health: from the great reset to build back differently.” The BMJ. January 25, 2022. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj-2021-068126. ^
  30.  “”The Great Reset” Conspiracy Flourishes Amid Continued Pandemic.” ADL. December 29, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.adl.org/blog/the-great-reset-conspiracy-flourishes-amid-continued-pandemic. ^
  31. “”The Great Reset” Conspiracy Flourishes Amid Continued Pandemic.” ADL. December 29, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.adl.org/blog/the-great-reset-conspiracy-flourishes-amid-continued-pandemic. ^
  32. “”The Great Reset” Conspiracy Flourishes Amid Continued Pandemic.” ADL. December 29, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.adl.org/blog/the-great-reset-conspiracy-flourishes-amid-continued-pandemic. ^
  33. “”The Great Reset” Conspiracy Flourishes Amid Continued Pandemic.” ADL. December 29, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.adl.org/blog/the-great-reset-conspiracy-flourishes-amid-continued-pandemic. ^
  34. [1] “”The Great Reset” Conspiracy Flourishes Amid Continued Pandemic.” ADL. December 29, 2020. Accessed January 30, 2022. https://www.adl.org/blog/the-great-reset-conspiracy-flourishes-amid-continued-pandemic. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: August 1, 2016

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2019 Jun Form 990 $338,156,853 $316,507,118 $607,640,514 $273,754,694 N $18,527,704 $298,635,508 $2,279,608 $18,853,488 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $318,001,262 $272,711,811 $568,719,750 $260,450,621 N $18,163,548 $287,303,372 $757,337 $17,208,801 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $279,722,879 $278,453,177 $472,969,075 $202,683,791 N $20,325,602 $249,504,764 $4,259,106 $13,260,669 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $66,449,242 $68,636,284 $336,911,574 $154,746,325 N $3,675,984 $59,661,723 $361,993 $6,485,464