Welcome Message

The Courage to Dare

Dear friends, dear partners,

Let me start by sharing a personal story: In 2008, during the the worst of the economic crisis, my company, TLS, had failed to perform financially, banks would not lend us any more funds and our equity was at risk. On one hand, I realized that it was vital to keep investing in continuous training and new equipment so we would not fall behind, but, at the same time, if we didn’t act quickly, the company would go under and 180 employees would lose their jobs. I called a meeting with the company’s management and explained the situation. To save TLS, I suggested a voluntary salary cut for all the employees who would invest the salary difference in the company until it was able to pay it back. The executives quickly agreed, showing leadership and exemplarity. All employees followed that lead.
What struck me at the time was the courage everyone had demonstrated by making this decision, setting aside fear and personal interest, confident that better times would come. Moreover, by doing so, the employees were shaping the culture of their company as a Great Place to Work, while enabling it to regain its strength (1M Euros were saved and growth eventually picked up).

Two years later, in 2010, we started the Zermatt Summit, based on the belief that a place of encounter was needed in order to rethink the economy and business enterprise in the midst of the problems we face: rising unemployment, cost of debt on future generations, increasing poverty in all countries to name but a few. We share the belief that putting the person at the center of our globalized world can prevent the implosion of the neo-capitalism model focused on short-term profit and finances disconnected from the production of goods and services.

But this belief can only become a reality if there are courageous leaders who are willing to swim against the tide to establish a world where the human person is not an object of consumption but the subject of creativity and life.

The theme of Courage was chosen for the fifth edition of the Zermatt Summit because courage is essential to transform ideas into reality, inspirations into actions.

Courage belongs to the cardinal virtues – the conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles – which are not only Christian as they go back to Plato. Today, prudence, temperance and justice, the first 3 virtues with courage being the fourth, can, in a renewed manner, be a guide for business leaders.

There are many instances when courage is needed in business: the courage of entrepreneurship, which is a mixture of innovation and creativity, the courage of temperance, despite the pressures of some shareholders focused on short term profitability, the courage of authority to lead a company on the path to common good… These instances show the way to long term value creation in a society too often paralyzed by fears and that often brings technical solutions without the moral fortitude to implement them.

As stated in a book which has a title that speaks for itself, Double Dip, How to run a values-led business and make money too, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of the famous ice cream company, wrote “Business has now become the most important force in society. We cannot solve social problems as long as business does not accept to play a leadership role in this area. This implies that the business acts for the common good. This is a new role for business which it is not used to and for which it is unprepared”.

The reason we are gathered here for these three days is to explore ways in which we can use courage as a force to build a better world. With its fifth edition, the Zermatt Summit is proud and honored to have engaged to date over 1000 speakers and participants and its success will ultimately be determined by the degree to which minds are impacted and actions are taken as a result. So, we hope that this three-day journey is only a start!

Let me conclude with an inspiring message from Wangari Maathai, Nobel peace prize Winner:
“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground.
A time when we have the courage to shed our fears and give hope to each other.
That time is now.”

Christopher Wasserman

President of the Zermatt Summit Foundation