At a first-ever Page reception held at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief at The Economist, joined in a conversation with Page Chair and CCO of Mubadala Brian Lott, to discuss what is in store for 2023.

Brian Lott and Zanny Minton Beddoes discuss the opportunities and threats ahead in 2023

“It’s how the three shocks of 2022 play out... the geopolitical shock, the energy shock, and the macro shock, which together caused the biggest shock in my professional life,” Minton Beddoes said. “So what happens in Ukraine? What happens with energy prices? And what happens with the Fed, and how much does it push on inflation and so forth?”

Minton Beddoes’ perspective echoes the findings of a survey sent to CCOs ahead of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting; 41% of respondents said economic uncertainty is the one critical risk that should be on most businesses’ radars in 2023, while 30% felt that geopolitical risks are the main threat.

Beyond those three issues, Minton Beddoes also highlighted some uncertainties that may currently be flying under the radar, but could exacerbate the risks mentioned above.

“I think people are wondering about the consequences of what happens in China. China is now in the midst of this extraordinary wave of COVID. Hundreds, thousands, maybe millions will die, but in a few months it is going to have a kind of massive sudden recovery. The main impact on the rest of the world will be the Chinese LNG consumption, Chinese energy consumption, Chinese commodity consumption going up, which will push up the prices. … It could well be the main impact for Europe and the U.S. is higher inflation.”

All of these issues have set the scene for major backlash against globalization. Detangling the risks surrounding globalization, and charting the path forward, is going to be a particularly difficult challenge for CCOs, Minton Beddoes explained.

“We are clearly in a world which is not going back to the kind of globalization of yore, and it’s three things coming together. It's the political backlash against globalization. It's the focus on climate change and in the sort of second best use of subsidies to get there... And it’s the geopolitics between the U.S. and China. Put those together, and you're in a world with much more government intervention, much more ‘better thy neighbor’ policies between countries. … What does it look like and how do you navigate it? That's going to be a big thing.” 

Alongside the theme of disruption, Minton Beddoes discussed how new tools are rapidly changing how professional communicators work. Speaking about how AI technologies like ChatGPT could disrupt both the fields of journalism and corporate communications, she took an optimistic view.

“I'm not in the position of, ‘oh my God, this is just going to displace jobs.’ …. It'll take a lot of the sort of tedium, certainly, out of my colleagues' work out. I think it will be really transformative, and I think the only thing that will be problematic is if you try to ignore it.”