Bill Gates: A New Approach to Capitalism in the 21st Century

Transcript of Gates speech, and a Q&A at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Finally, I hope that the great thinkers here will dedicate some time to finding ways for businesses, governments, NGOs, and the media to create measures of what companies are doing to use their power and intelligence to serve a wider circle of people. This kind of information is an important element of creative capitalism. It can turn good works into recognition, and ensure that recognition bridges market-based rewards to businesses that do the most work to serve the most people.

We are living in a phenomenal age. If we can spend the early decades of the 21st century finding approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits and recognition for business, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce poverty in the world.

The task is open-ended. It will never be finished. But a passionate effort to answer this challenge will help change the world.

I'm excited to be part of it.

Thank you.

Q&A following the speech, hosted by World Economic Forum Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab:

Let's make Davos the starting point of a movement of creative capitalism.

Now, so I have one or two questions, being very much involved into this issue intellectually. When you preach creative capitalism or I call it sometimes corporate global citizenship, you meet very often quite some cynicism of people, people saying that's the end, I mean, you have enough arguments, the business of business is business.

Here what would you -- you mentioned already it's a reputation, it's a recognition, but what would you tell those people to go away with this wrong criticism?

Gates: Well, I think that part of the problem we get into is that there are many things that are done under this label that, in fact, don't have a very large impact, and so we have to use the fact that more is going on here, and people are getting more sophisticated about it, as well as the Internet, to really gauge which are the sincere efforts that have a big impact. So, some of the cynicism about this will be reduced as it is mapped sector by sector into more concrete activities.

We also benefit immensely that some of these breakthroughs, it doesn't take much of a change in them to make them available to the poorest. Even sometimes eventually the price just comes down, and there is the benefit there, but sometimes things get stuck because there's an assumption of expertise, there's an assumption your electricity runs all the time, and so the twists that can take it and move it out of just the upper two-thirds down to that bottom one-third may not be a very large deviation.

So, I'm not talking about some radical change; I'm talking about an evolution, and I do think the largest companies are probably the place where the real tradeoff is net positive, and that they should lead the way.

Schwab: Now, very often such an engagement of business into society depends on the personal let's say characteristics of the CEO. How would you see that such a philosophy of creative capitalism is really entrenched into the genes of a corporation

Gates: Yeah, I agree that it's not something that a company is engaged in. Getting onto that path, having a CEO take a strong position and show personal excitement, be willing to take some of the really talented people in the company and give them time to learn about these needs and create special partnerships, that's a very important element to drive this forward.

But if it's done right, the self-image that people have of who they are and what their company is about will come to include this.

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