Seasons greetings – what can be expected of 2021?
Dec 21, 2020
A very dramatic year is coming to an end. The year of 2020 started with the outbreak of a novel coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which came to spread worldwide, leading to one of the worst global crises since World War II. As a result of lockdowns and closed borders, the global economy suffered a major blow, and international supply chains were disrupted. Inequalities were laid bare, and as the incomes of poor people plunged, extreme poverty surged for the first time in 20 years. And notably, over 1,6 million people – likely many more –died due to Covid-19. One of them was Erik Belfrage, co-founder of Consilio International. He is very missed, and we remember him with a lot of warmth.
As the year of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 will be remembered as a year of shocks, that put adaptability, cooperation and resilience to a test. It will, however, also be recalled as a year when innovation and scientific prowess excelled, as highly efficient Covid-19 vaccines were developed in record time. Despite this, much of the uncertainty that marked the world in 2020 will prevail in 2021, which makes it imperative for companies to be prepared for rapid changes and disruptions. Here are 7 trends that companies should keep an eye on, some which have been discussed by Consilio in earlier reports this year:
- Vaccine battles
As some countries roll out their first vaccines, the focus will change from the great effort of producing them to the equally intimidating challenge of distributing them. Driven by ‘vaccine nationalism’, countries will fight over who should get the vaccine and at what point of time – and similar battles will also occur within countries. An increasing worry is how many people will refuse a vaccine when offered.
- A mixed economic recovery
Local outbreaks and restrictions will go back and forth, leading to an uneven economic recovery. Governments will turn from maintaining businesses on life-support to assisting newly unemployed workers, and the gap between strong and weak businesses will expand.
- Mending the new world disorder
From January 20 and onwards, all eyes will be on Joe Biden and his ability to mend a decaying rules-based international order. He will aim for the U.S. to reenter the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, but several hurdles to an order rooted in multilateralism and international law remain, and will outlive his presidency.
- Increased U.S.-China tensions
This year, world politics were characterized by friction and division, and tensions between the U.S. and China turned into a cold ‘tech war’. Biden will continue the trade war with China, and he will work with allies to conduct it more effectively. Numerous countries from Africa to South-East Asia will make evert effort to avoid choosing sides amid rising tensions.
- Companies on the front line
Business is increasingly integrated into the geopolitical battle field, as noted by the focus on Huawei and TikTok in the U.S.-China dispute. Executives will face more pressure from above – as well as from below – as employees and customers require a firmer position in favor of climate change and social justice.
- Following the acceleration of tech
In 2020, the pandemic pushed people to work from home and carry out everything from conferences to shopping online, accelerating the already-emerging trend of digitalization and automation. The extent to which these changes will remain will become clearer in 2021.
- A potential opportunity on climate change
One bright spot in the midst of the crisis is the opportunity to adopt measures on climate change, as governments invest in green recovery plans to produce jobs and slash emissions. The level of ambition in pledges at the next UN climate conference in 2021 will give indications of how serious countries are about this – with some leaders likely to argue that they cannot afford to take action on climate change, due to the current economic crisis.
As Albert Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”. Remember this when planning your operations for the coming year – and when taking holidays this year.