The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the entire world to rethink the concept of sustainable development, and most developed countries, particularly in the European Union, are basing economic recovery efforts on ESG principles with the objective of making the world a greener place. Under its Green Deal, the EU aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the called-for transition to renewables will cause a decline in demand for Russian energy resources. Indeed, under the baseline scenario, the EU’s carbon tax is expected to negatively impact the Russian economy to the tune of more than EUR 33 billion between 2025 and 2030. And despite a number of successful initial green finance bond launches by Russian issuers, Russia is only just beginning to implement ESG approaches. By 2023, green technologies could grow to become a RUB 3-trillion industry in Russia. However, sustainability projects, let alone climate-protection projects, are costly, and presently only offer low returns. It is therefore essential for Russia to establish a green finance system. With a national taxonomy in place, it would be possible to verify projects and attract finance from Russian and foreign investors.
The last two decades have seen a significant increase in the number of restrictive measures imposed on countries, economic sectors and corporations. The risk of sanctions has long since extended beyond ‘marginal’ and ‘shadow’ sectors of the economy, and today affects major multinational companies around the world, with banks and the financial sector at the most serious risk. Sanctions present a threat to both the financial infrastructure of the ‘target country’ and foreign banks. In recent years, major banks such as UniСredit, Standard Chartered and JPMorgan Chase have had to pay fines for violating sanctions regimes. Restrictions imposed in order to serve political ends may interfere with the normal functioning of the global financial system. The transformation of the dollar into a weapon carries the threat of unforeseen shocks. Restrictions on the financial sector are also associated with human rights issues, particularly a lack of access to financial services (underbanking) for large groups of citizens. The risk of sanctions is also growing in other sectors of the economy. China has been subject to landmark sanctions on a host of telecommunications and manufacturing companies. In India, attention is focused on US bans on the purchase of Iranian oil and deals outlining military-industrial cooperation with Russia. The European Union is looking seriously at the threat of extraterritorial sanctions by third countries. There is significant interest in discussing the issue among US-based companies, which are facing the risk of fines from their own government. The intensity and indiscriminate nature with which sanctions are deployed suggests that a targeted political tool is now becoming all-encompassing. In the context of eroding international norms, they also serve as a kind of regulator of relations between countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has had almost no effect on the intensity of sanctions. Restrictions are now being applied even more heavily in a number of areas. How are geopolitical issues related to the use of sanctions? What will be the consequence of transforming the dollar into a weapon and a site of political leverage? Why is the financial sector most vulnerable to sanctions? Should we expect a new escalation in sanctions against Russia? How can the risk of sanctions be managed at the level of business, the state and international organizations?
The transformation of the global economy to a low-carbon model will require substantial funding, which has been estimated at USD 120 trillion. At the same time, another transition is under way, whereby ESG principles are forming a key component of investment projects. It is a model that is becoming increasingly interesting to investors and borrowers, and the ESG bond market is growing rapidly. The global market is already worth USD 1 trillion, making it bigger than the Russian debt and equity markets combined, and it has the potential to grow tenfold by 2025. International standards and a financial infrastructure have been put in place, and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) are set to be toughened in 2021–2022. This will lead to an increase in the proportion of assets being managed according to compulsory ESG principles from 50% to 90% (or USD 90 trillion). This will only serve to increase the flow of investment in responsible finance tools. As things stand, the Russian economy is not able to comply with strict green standards, and the country’s public institutions and businesses are therefore faced with the challenge of overhauling their strategies. If they do not do so, the risk of becoming less competitive and more restricted as a result of a range of consequences (such as the EU’s carbon tax) is very real. Moreover, the Russian market is limited in terms of potential finance. What needs to be done to prepare for and comply with the new reality, given that only a few players have full access to the tools provided by the international market?
It is hard to argue with the principle, “entities should not be multiplied without necessity” when it comes to spurring economic recovery. A key issue for policymakers and business leaders is to identify what the priorities should be, and what hindrance to business growth can be eliminated. How might recovery measures offer an opportunity to adjust and rebalance the relationship between the public and private sectors, between business and society, between shareholders and stakeholders, and between company employees and management? What investments should be prioritized, and how might accelerating digital transformation offer solutions? And should innovation and creativity be viewed as the most important criteria for a successful business in the post-COVID era?
The development of industry 4.0 involves the mass penetration of end-to-end technologies in all sectors of the economy. Manufacturing processes, the cost structure, monetization methods, and efficiency drivers are all changing. And states can no longer ignore the active development of global private currencies. Should the monetary and credit systems and payment infrastructure that have developed over decades be part of new business models? Will industrial companies be able to manage and access liquidity if banks do not develop new digital skillsets? Should capital-intensive industrial companies prioritize the tokenization of assets and rights as one of the key areas of the digitalization programme, thereby replacing traditional financial instruments? Will digital financial assets become more attractive as a means of tokenizing accounts receivable, guaranteeing metal supply or providing long-term motivation for employees? What is the position of regulators on private digital currency initiatives when it comes to transitioning to the digital economy? Will the idealized model of issuing roubles digitally remain unchanged? Do we need unified joined-up measures to prevent the spread of digital currencies? What is the model of threat and risk management in the world of digital currencies?
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to the entire planet, and has required governments and business to come together to comprehensively respond. The pandemic has also raised people’s awareness of the importance of environmental management and the need for better social and corporate governance in business. Today, more than USD 30 trillion in investment is being managed by funds guided by ESG principles, and global investors have come to realize that ESG principles offer a reliable indicator as to whether a company will be able to achieve sustainable growth while offering attractive returns. Many analysts forecast that within a few years companies which choose not to focus on sustainable development and CSR will be unable to raise capital. Even today, good ESG compliance is boosting the ability of Russian companies to leverage their assets by, for example, raising low-interest debt capital for adhering to environmental protection rules. What approaches are Russian companies adopting to implement ESG principles while pursuing business strategies, and how might this lead to greater innovation? What regulatory policies and management methods are enabling companies in Russia to employ green principles so as to increase productivity and competitiveness and more closely align with sustainable development concepts? Which industries have already moved to incorporate the ESG agenda, and are there sectors that are less compatible with ESG principles?
The global power sector is undergoing re-examination as efforts are under way to identify how to maintain competitiveness, flexibility, and reliability, both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. As the economy contracted, so all forms of energy consumption declined across the globe. However, this unforeseen set of circumstances has not only given rise to major risks for the power sector, but also new opportunities. Renewable energy, particularly distributed generation, was one of the few sectors to have grown in 2020, and this trend was also evident in Russia. In 2020 – one hundred years on from the Soviet Union’s electrification plan – the Russian power sector undertook to identify new development strategies. Generation using renewable energy sources grew, decentralization continued, new management technologies were employed, and new market players emerged. Does this indicate a long-term trend, or a temporary phenomenon? Are the Russian and global power sectors ready for an overhaul? What role should the government play in these processes?
Transactions using the euro/dollar are becoming increasingly risky. Sanctions, market volatility in the wake of the pandemic, and other unforeseen events are impacting global financial markets. It has become essential to move to a multi-currency settlement system in order to protect one’s own interests on international markets. What might be the consequences for international trade if changes to settlement transactions are not implemented over the near or medium term? What is the prognosis for Russia's exporters in terms of multi-currency developments?
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of the world order that has prevailed for the past 30 years. Contrary to expectations, it demonstrated that under the current model of global governance, differences that have accumulated over the years between various nations are becoming increasingly hard to overcome, even in times of global crisis. Today, business and politics are closely intertwined, and political decisions have by their very nature had a major bearing on the business sector. The business community is keen to see clear and effective measures put in place to facilitate multilateral agreements on key policies, including the climate, digitalization, and sustainable development. Can the current model of global governance be adapted to meet today’s challenges? What are the main fault lines disrupting the multilateral approach to addressing current issues, and why is an effective system for taking globally important decisions vital for the business sector? What is the risk of global governance systems fragmenting in the future? What decisions by multilateral international institutions aimed at spurring economic recovery should the business sector expect to be enacted following the period of lockdown? What support can the business sector offer to make multilateral cooperation more effective, and what is the business sector’s perspective on how a new, more effective global governance system might evolve?
Urbanization and suburban development are both on the rise, as is the demand for higher living standards in cities. These factors, together with black swans such as the international economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have all had a substantial impact on the life of cities today. The emphasis has shifted to building local multifunctional urban centres, increasing travel options and convenience, and creating green recreational spaces and water systems. Competition among global cities for human capital is also driving change. What principles and approaches to urban development should be cast aside, and which new ones should be adopted as a necessity? What are leading urban development projects based upon, and what principles are urban project initiators, experts, and developers guided by? How are cities responding to unpredictable events of global magnitude?
The prolonged fall in energy prices has led to an acceleration of economic diversification, with agriculture receiving much attention. Given its favourable geography, vast land resources, and various climatic regions, Russia offers excellent potential for crop and livestock cultivation, and the agricultural sector could become a major driver of the nation’s economy. Furthermore, efforts to replace imports over the past 20 years have meant that Russia is now able to guarantee its food security. In doing so, issues such as genetic engineering and selection have essentially fallen by the wayside. Agricultural companies have benefitted from the timely introduction of support, and this has established a successful track record of results, boosting company growth and agricultural development. People are also no longer migrating from agricultural areas to large cities in the same numbers. However, the market is now reaching a point where it is becoming saturated with high quality as well as low-cost products. At the same time, despite the wide range of measures taken by the government, prices for food are surging, and this is clearly a cause of concern for both the government and the public. What support measures for consumers should be developed in order to increase demand for domestic food products?
Topics for discussion:
New transport corridors as a tool of global trade
The country’s road network
The role of transport infrastructure in business development
The transport backbone as a factor in the development of the territories
Around 70 million tonnes of household waste are produced in Russia every year, and this figure is only continuing to grow. Today, only 7% of household waste is sorted and recycled, with the remaining 93% going to landfills, often without any preliminary sorting. As well as damaging the environment and people’s health, the prevailing practice of disposing household waste at landfill sites also represents a waste of resources which could have otherwise been reused. It is therefore imperative to increase processing and recycling of household waste as much as possible in the interests of sustainable development. The creation of a comprehensive waste processing system in Russia could lead to landfill sites becoming a thing of the past, as they are already in several developed countries. How can the principle of ‘zero waste to landfills’ be made into a reality and what is its role in the introduction of the zero waste concept as part of Russia’s wider transition to a circular economy? How many factories specializing in energy recovery from municipal solid waste should Russia build in order to solve the problem of landfill sites and dumping grounds in major cities?
Private investment in shares is currently booming worldwide. Hundreds of millions of new investors are preferring to use convenient mobile apps to trade themselves, rather than entrust their savings to professional managers. With low interest rates and an influx of helicopter money, stock market indexes are setting new records. Today, a company’s capitalization is determined by social media and forum posts, rather than fundamental analyses. Twelve million people in Russia have brokerage accounts, and the private investor has become a new force on the Russian capital market. Major issuers now have the responsibility of dealing with hundreds of thousands of minority shareholders, and there is a growing need to build and expand communication channels. Why are people turning to the stock market, and which issuing companies are most benefitting as a result? What could the government do to encourage Russian companies to float on the Russian stock market? Should the growing numbers of Russian individuals investing in foreign companies be viewed as capital flight, or a prudent diversification strategy? What needs to be done to create a stable class of private investors and a well-developed domestic capital market?
Mankind’s impact on the environment is a key global issue today. The World Bank has estimated that by 2050, the amount of human waste produced will be double that of today. Russia has set a number of ambitious targets to tackle this issue. By 2030, all waste must be sent for sorting, and ground disposal of household waste must be cut in half. In order to meet the objectives set by the President, a new sector will have to be built, and a transition to a circular economy must be enacted. What needs to be done to achieve this?
A century ago, a country had to be an industrial powerhouse in order to ensure success, while today the development of the creative industries is key to a competitive economy. Creative industries have a major impact on both the economy, and social policy, and can help drive systemic change. They are also integral to conveying the spirit, values and identity of a country to the wider world, thereby boosting its overall standing and leadership on the global stage. For these reasons, the creative industries can play a key role in efforts to achieve national goals. Is Russia prepared to invest heavily in new industries, and what needs to be done to build management and technological expertise? What forms of project finance should be developed to support the sector, and what can be done to reduce red tape and encourage the growth of new industries? What steps should be taken to ensure that best international experience is applied? How can an expansive partner network be built in order to amass and replicate best international practices? And what does the government need to do to ensure the creative economy continues to grow throughout the current decade?
The effective management of problem and non-core assets is an important economic development tool. Each crisis requires state institutions and their officials to make use of a whole arsenal of legal, financial and management practices. The international practice of transferring bad debt over to specialized banks/funds with the aim of managing and compensating losses from the global economic crisis is a relatively new tool for Russia. In particular, a local bank of marginal assets was created in 2018, when national financial and banking systems were at risk as a result of the problems experienced by the so-called Garden Ring banks. The difficult situation that has arisen in a range of sectors in the economy in the wake of the pandemic will lead to a growth in bad debt. For this reason, we must answer the following questions urgently: How can we minimize these risks? What role will the work on bad debt play in developing the economy and in reforming the banking system? What tools are most effective in managing bad debt, and should we look at best practice within Russia or abroad? How and where can you find an investor for complex assets? How can you return money which has been withdrawn from Russia: via ‘capital amnesty’ or international courts?
Environmental issues are coming under scrutiny from governments, the public, and investors alike. Corporations are implementing more responsible green policies; however, the need to put a costly infrastructure in place and address social issues is becoming increasingly pressing. How can corporations raise funds to introduce cleaner technologies? What policies should be adopted by governments, and what are the best global practices in this area, including in terms of taxation and other forms of support?
Bloggers today are able to convey their views and perspectives to a broad audience, and hold considerable influence. Indeed, many of them have become opinion leaders. It would therefore be wrong to ignore this fact and deny their professional status. Bloggers should be able to receive fair compensation for their work, and they should also assume responsibility for their actions. Should bloggers be made to register as media outlets? Another factor to consider is online advertising, which continues to enjoy strong annual growth, and currently almost matches television in terms of quantity in Russia. As a result, regulation is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. What place do bloggers occupy in the media holding company ecosystem? What talent-development opportunities can the blogosphere offer young people? And can traditional and new media coexist and complement one another?
The role of women in business is growing with each passing year. Historically, women were largely employed in the creative industries. Today, as business processes are becoming increasingly automated, it is being predicted that demand for people in the creative professions – and for people with creative skills in general – will grow substantially worldwide. What can be done to ensure a boom in the creative economy? What steps need to be taken to unlock the creative potential of young people? How can a project be transformed into a creative endeavour, and what benefits does this provide in today’s environment? How is the role of women in the economy changing in line with their position in society, and what impact will this have on trends and growth in the creative industries?
The pandemic has altered the way employees perceive themselves, forcing companies to rethink the principles of corporate culture. Developing new skills and building new approaches to workflow management and employment are now among the highest priorities for successful management in the post-COVID world. Examples of effective adaptation by business have shown that the companies of the future will focus on services that can create a unique competitive advantage. Flexible organization and workflow, flat hierarchies, and requests for reduced supervision are not always in line with the ideas of efficiency that prevail among top management at large companies and which are deeply ingrained in Russian corporate culture. Will the employee of the future be interested in corporate values? How can business benefit from change by effectively managing human capital? What does the future hold for corporate employees and what leaders do they need? What will benchmark employment models look like in 5–7 years (freelance, part-time, expert platforms, professional outsourcing)?
Amidst all the rapid advances in technology, food production and agriculture are considered to be two of the last strongholds of technological conservatism. Metallurgical and mechanical engineering enterprises are already becoming fully automated. Meanwhile, in contrast to these giants of the last industrial era, the agricultural sector continues to suffer from a seasonal lack of manual labour. This has been further exacerbated by restrictions imposed during the pandemic. However, there are increasing reasons to believe that this lull in the global agricultural sector will give way to a sweeping technological explosion, which will herald the Fourth Agricultural Revolution. It is no coincidence that agro-tech and food-tech have been among the most attractive sectors to venture capitalists. What will define and characterize this new-look agricultural sector? What is the future of food production, and how might people’s diet change?
The COVID-19 Pandemic has hastened the digitalization of healthcare. It has provided a major impetus to the development of big data technologies, the use of artificial intelligence, and the formation of infrastructure solutions for providing timely care to cardiovascular disease and cancer patients. Remote monitoring and telemedicine solutions facilitating communication between doctors and supporting inpatient, at-home, and outpatient care are in high demand. The use of information technology in global medicine has recently exploded, shifting the entire healthcare industry to the high-tech level – making it more effective, safe, and convenient for doctors and patients. What advantages does the development of healthcare information systems and digital services grant patients, doctors, health service planners, the government, and businesses? What are some current examples of the successful development of digital services, automatization of the treatment process, use of artificial intelligence, and implementation of innovative solutions in Russia and abroad? What objectives must be addressed prior to the creation of a unified digital contour of the health sector? What are the legislative and regulatory needs of digital healthcare?
The pandemic and lockdown have created the conditions for growth in e-commerce, with even the most conservative consumers beginning to master online shopping services. By the end of 2020, 40% of Russians were going online to purchase items they had previously only bought in stores. Will the boom in electronic commerce in Russia prove to be a pandemic-era phenomenon or could it reach new levels of growth after the removal of COVID restrictions? Can Russia establish a leading global position? Are Russia’s infrastructure and regulatory framework capable of supporting the development of the e-commerce market nationwide? Will logistics experts and marketplaces provide a breeding ground for new players in the SME sector?
Artificial Intelligence and voice technologies have become important aspects of companies’ digital transformations. AI has the power to improve operational efficiency through fulfilling tasks once performed by employees, assist companies in making valuable analytical decisions, and make the customer experience more engaging and more personalized. Within the financial services sector, chat bots also serve as an important educational tool and on-hand advisor to help customers navigate their personal finances. How do businesses use voice interface, and how is this likely to change and develop going forward? How is AI employed in investing? A closer look at robo-advising and other AI-based tools. The role of greater personalization in business processes and its effect on outcomes. AI for the people: ensuring that the latest tech is working to improve lives.
Many companies, especially publicly listed ones, have announced the creation of ecosystems, but experts note that as of today under 10% of ecosystems are profitable. At the centre of ecosystems are super-applications, more commonly known as super-apps, which attempt to serve every human need. Russian ecosystems currently provide services according to a ‘closed model’, meaning that only the owner or its affiliated companies can sell products and provide services to customers. The regulator is proposing to introduce a requirement for an “open model of ecosystems” in which “everyone plays by the same rules”. Under such conditions, the creator of the ecosystem loses a significant part of their advantage. Another aspect of Russian ecosystems is that they tend to be formed around banks, creating risks for their depositors. This is a justifiable cause for concern from the regulator’s perspective. Banks must conduct qualitative risk assessments with regard to the devaluation of non-core businesses. But do the customers themselves want ecosystem creep? Are we willing to tie ourselves to a single ‘super-app’? Or would we prefer to choose between ‘super-services’ that compete on quality?
Critical information infrastructure (CII) encompasses information systems and telecommunications networks which are crucial to the smooth running of key sectors, such as healthcare, manufacturing, communications, transport, energy, finance, and municipal services. CII control also extends to online content. As the Internet of Things continues to pervade all areas of life, digital technology has become key to critical infrastructure management. Without security guarantees, the entire digital foundation is at risk of crumbling. Experts detected that in 2020, the number of cyber-attacks on strategic sites (such as nuclear enterprises, healthcare facilities, electric power infrastructure, military installations, government bodies, and banks) doubled in Russia. It has therefore become crucial to create a systematic approach to ensuring CII security, and to mobilize all those involved in the process. There is also an increasingly pressing need to develop a single, integrated platform to allow stakeholders in the public and private sectors to communicate across industries. A wide-ranging dialogue between government and business is required, which should begin by considering new challenges and threats, and assessing the current state of the CII market in the context of recent attacks.
2020 changed many aspects of people’s lives across the world. The corporate and state bodies of many countries were faced with the need to switch to working with clients online and provide services remotely. But not everyone was prepared for this, and old ways of doing things have had to be swiftly overhauled. In many countries, the social aspect of state and commercial projects has been strengthened over this period, with new technological solutions being created and existing ones updated to support those most in need. The development of these services is still relevant today. How successful has the transition to online communications been in terms of helping those who need it? Which of the services in this area is the most in demand? What technologies are set to be implemented in the near future?
The accelerated rollout of digital technologies in the global economy and the social sphere is becoming a key driver of sustainable development. Russia is putting significant resources into developing communications infrastructure and expanding access to information networks across the country, effectively overcoming the digital divide among the population and creating fundamentally new conditions for the development of high-tech solutions on the global stage. 5G, the new standard in wireless communications, will provide the architecture backbone of the country’s digitalization, bringing with it high connection speeds and low latency, providing a natural engine for current digital projects and a platform for the projects of the future. What will the 5G future look like, and which tasks will the next-generation communications technology solve first? What progress is being made in Russia’s 5G rollout and what is the outlook for the new technology’s introduction across the country? How prepared are operators, producers and consumers for the new communication standard?
A number of global mega trends shape the image of our future: digital transformation, rising inequality, an increase in public and corporate debts, faster and more sophisticated business processes, and the development of green energy. We will discuss the effect the pandemic has had on the key mega trends, including technological, economic, social, and political. How will digitalization accelerated by the pandemic and lockdowns change our personal and professional lives? How will social conventions and ethical standards change? Will the government’s role in the economy and private lives increase? Will the environment and climate change attract more attention in the global agenda? Will this global tragedy help unite people or tear them apart even more?
Are you among of those who just watching the world rapidly changing around you, or do you want to be the leader who's changing it? Сompetition is not about the market share and short-term performance anymore, but about the speed of change and adaptation, the business model innovation, democratization of technology, and effective change management and future values. According to Accenture research, 77% of executives in the world state that their technology architecture is becoming very critical or critical to the future success of their organization. The dynamics of recent years and the 2020 pandemic, which has become a global stress test for management systems, has shown the importance of technology as a determining factor of the competitive strengths. It has become obvious that business and technology strategies are no longer separable, and that every business is a technology business. The choices a company makes today determine which opportunities and threats it will face tomorrow. The pace of change is so fast and the stakes so high that constant pilot projects, case-studies, and lengthy incremental improvement processes are no longer competitive factors. The business success in Russia depends on how the current Russian infrastructure responds to such high-scale and ambitious transformations. Security, cloud technologies, reliability of IT -systems and infrastructure elasticity are not a subject for discussion anymore, but the crucial topics for successful business development and growth. Technology outlays are no longer compulsory spending, as it might seem to some, but promising investments. This is a unique opportunity to harness the power of technological change to rethink and rebuild the future of business and to transform the skills of employees and the “habits” of partners. Today, the winner is whoever can quickly formulate the vision for the future and initiate and lead the process of change. Are you ready to be a leader of change?