The consulting firms that are a World Economic Forum partner

24 January 2018 8 min. read
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Every year, thousands of CEOs, high-profile academics, scientists and international politicians converge upon the Swiss Alps to discuss the state of the world’s economy. As well as the opportunity to share knowledge with the globe’s foremost thought-leaders, the annual World Economic Forum in Davos presents consulting firms with the most prestigious stage there is to showcase their expertise by partnering the summit.

Every year, the second half of January heralds the commencing of the prestigious World Economic Forum (WEF). This year’s conference, which runs from January 23 to 26, is the 48th forum since the inaugural conference in 1971, which was attended by 444 Executives. The WEF has grown exponentially since then, with a total of 2,500 guests expected to attend this year, including 340 global political leaders.

The theme of this year’s event is “Creating a shared future in a fractured world,” while WEF’s mission statement said that it is “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”. High-profile attendees include US President Donald Trump – who is currently in line to deliver a keynote address towards the event’s close, having temporarily ended the most recent US government shutdown – as well as Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, who delivered the opening address, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron.The consulting firms that can call themselves a World Economic Forum PartnerThe potent blend of business, academic and political figures also makes the conference one of the prime global stages for the consulting industry to display its prowess as a Partner of the summit – a status which a firm must not only pay to attain, but prove themselves as top-quality thought leaders. These fall into three categories.

Strategic Partners

WEF’s Strategic Partners represent 100 leading global companies, each of whom provide essential leadership to support the Forum’s mission of improving the state of the world, and so only the most recognised corporations with demonstrated track records of good governance and alignment with Forum values are invited to join this group.

Once they are in, Strategic Partners may engage in up to six System Initiatives, regions or communities. This access to the WEF’s networks and experts allows for their participation in strategic decision-making on the most important industry and cross-industry issues.

Among this group, there are 16 consulting firms. Among them are all the constituent members of the professional services industry’s Big Four; EY, PwC, KPMG, who released a report at the summit marking out geopolitical uncertainty as a key concern for the global economy, and Deloitte, who sent a leadership delegation featuring David Sproul, CEO, Deloitte Northwest Europe; Cathy Engelbert, CEO, Deloitte US; and Punit Renjen, CEO, Deloitte Global, among others.

In a piece commenting on some of his firm’s findings at the conference, Renjen said, “C-level executives overwhelmingly (87%) believe Industry 4.0 will lead to more social and economic equality and stability, and three-quarters say businesses will have much more influence than governments and other entities in shaping this future. Yet less than a quarter believe their own organisations hold significant influence over such crucial factors as education, sustainability and social mobility.”

Strategic World Economic Forum Partners

The top names of the management consulting scene are also present as these top-level partners. Bain & Company and BCG are both in attendance, alongside McKinsey & Company, whose delegation is fronted for the final time by outgoing global Managing Director Dominic Barton, who has served the maximum permitted term as the organisation’s head.

Commenting in a dispatch from Davos, Barton summarised the state of play as perceived by global Executives, “Executives are hoping that the Trump administration delivers on its pledges to deregulate, lower tax rates, bring overseas corporate cash home, and invest in infrastructure—while avoiding truly damaging moves on trade. Strong US growth in 2017 would help bolster the rest of the global economy. Beyond this year, however, there was less confidence about the outlook.”

A.T. Kearney and Accenture are also Strategic Partners, while among other panels, Accenture will be represented by Paul Daugherty, their Chief Technology and Innovation Officer on a debate on AI: The Leadership Imperative, on January 23.

Other Strategic Partners include IBM, which recently invested $200 million into climate change research, property consultancy JLL, the Marsh & McLennan Companies consulting network, rapidly expanding Indian firm Tata Consulting Services, Infosys, IT consultancy Wipro, and Hitachi.

Besides the Strategic Partners, the WEF also has approximately 200 so-called Strategic Partner Associates. World Economic Forum Strategic Partner Associates include the world’s leading businesses, and are actively involved in shaping the future of industries, regions and systemic issues. These companies believe in corporate global citizenship and are committed to enabling positive change. Strategic Partner Associates may engage in up to four System Initiatives, regions or communities.

These include consulting firms WTW Associates, and Cognizant. According to a release from the event, Cognizant worked to help WEF 2018 attendees better understand accelerating workplace transformation, by delivering an interactive session on ways organisations can seize the new opportunities that will be unleashed by AI and automation. The session highlighted 21 jobs, “which we believe over the next decade will experience significant employment growth as a result of AI – enhancing work, our lives and our collective well-being.”


Another grade of Partnership sees WEF Partners, world-class companies with a strong interest in developing systemic solutions to key challenges, become the driving force behind Forum programmes. Partners may engage in up to three System Initiatives, regions or communities. Access to Forum networks and experts provides Partners with visibility and time-sensitive insight into strategic decision-making on the issues most important to them.

This segment includes AlixPartners, BCG Digital Ventures, Boston Consulting Group’s digital design wing, which is currently behind a number of projects including used car platform HeyCar, FTI, Willis Towers Watson, and IDEO. IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centred, design-based approach to helping organisations in the public and private sector.

Other World Economic Forum Partners

While these are the Partners with a major focus on consulting, however, there are many other players involved with the WEF, who host consulting wings.

Besides the Strategic Partners, the WEF also has approximately 200 so-called ‘Industry Partners,’: companies that are actively involved in the Forum's mission at the industry level. These include Arup, the building and construction professional services firm which recently helped to develop a new combined heat and power plant in Manchester.

Other groups involved in WEF include BAE Systems, which is the world’s tenth largest cyber security consulting firm, AECOM, which was involved in the communication strategy of El Salvador last year, French multinational advertising and public relations company Publicis, and IT firms Fujitsu and Luxoft, who provide IT consulting for the Financial Services sector.