What role does impact play at Davos?


Last month, Katapult’s founder Tharald Nustad and Katapult Group CEO, Linn-Cecilie Linnemann were in Davos for the World Economic Forum. Marking the first winter Davos post-covid, this year’s gathering was set against a backdrop of ongoing and ensuing crises: looming recession, war in Europe and accelerating climate change. In this article, Tharald and Linn-Cecilie explore what the famous (and at times controversial) annual gathering means in terms of impact.

While there are many conferences and conventions in the Katapult calendar, there are few events that attract as much focus as the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting.

Now in its 35th year and in the midst of a series of global crises, question marks have been placed around the continued relevance of Davos. Critics point towards both US and Chinese, heads of state being conspicuous only by their absence.

In addition to a fear that the political relevance of Davos is waning, a broader cultural critique of the gathering continues to be well-voiced and not entirely undeserved. The stereotype being of a wealthy (mostly male) elite flying-in on private jets, promising change but quickly returning to the status quo. Indeed with ⅔ attendees being men, there is a long road to more equal gender representation.

While these concerns are justified, the broader stereotypes of Davos miss both the nuance and the personal utility of the event.

Even with Joe Biden and Xi Jinping not in attendance, Davos offers an unparalleled meeting ground between business and political interest. It is in this environment where real change can be leveraged.

Furthermore, the multi-event format of Davos allows you to trace trends across sectors, panel discussions and networking drinks. While anyone can read the latest addition of the FT or Economist, Davos provides the intonation and frequency around trends and talking points.

In January 2023, there are myriad issues which are on the tips of tongues of business and political leaders alike. While a protracted recession occupies the immediate financial horizon, war in Ukraine and the call for more support presents a crisis that Europe has not experienced in decades.

In the simultaneously immediate and long-term, it is climate change and biodiversity loss that are both a source for alarm but high on the policy agenda.

It is in this underlying source of crisis that Katapult finds its voice and Davos provides a seat at the table.

As an impact fund specializing in investment across climate-, ocean- and food-tech we not only share a deep concern for our environment but we bring with us an increasingly tested solution for change.

At Katapult we look to invest in the most impactful companies. This position comes from not only what we see as an obligation but we see that this is an immense business opportunity.

We formulate this as: profit because of impact.

As we progressively move towards the 1.5 degree threshold of warming, so too increases our drive to accelerate more companies, attract new investors, and scale new, impactful solutions.

Davos is the meeting ground where we can simultaneously fulfill a duty to our portfolio, our investors and by extension, the planet.

The ability to network at an event such as Davos brings mutual benefits. While we go with the intention of increasing Katapult’s visibility we hope to be able to inspire others in our vision.

This sentiment doesn’t come from a position of arrogance but rather an awareness of our own limitations and reach.

While Katapult’s vision of profit because of impact is directed towards environmental impact, we are all too aware that its application has many usages and provides solutions beyond the climate crisis.

From building a more peaceful society, to driving a more sustainable form of capitalism, funding companies who view solving difficult challenges as their goal as opposed to fortunate bi-product, is an investment thesis which has multiple applications.

If there was a key takeaway from Davos, we were inspired by a growing, global impact network.
It was fantastic to attend an impact event hosted by the Impact Office and co-arrange an impact meet-up with Nexus, C4I and the BMW foundation. These gatherings represent a growing network and a diversity of stakeholders rallying around impact. While we have a long way to go (and impact potential to fulfill), these are steps in the right direction.

We look forward to implementing our learnings from Davos and to re-connecting with our growing Davos impact network next year!

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