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BoF VOICES 2022: Finding Optimism in an Unsteady World

From the Ukraine War to the climate crisis to the legacy of the pandemic, speakers including CNN’s Clarissa Ward, Mercy Corps’ Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Goldman Sachs’ Tim Ingrassia and Google X’s former chief business officer Mo Gawdat discussed the uncertainty gripping the world — and why there’s cause for hope.
Tjada D'Oyen McKenna speaks at the Conflict, Climate and Today's Global Hunger Crisis Talk at BoF VOICES 2022.
Tjada D'Oyen McKenna speaks at BoF VOICES 2022. (Getty Images for Business of Fashion)

OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — We live in an age of uncertainty. The aftershocks of the pandemic, the Ukraine War, the climate crisis and the spread of misinformation are just some of the forces creating turbulence in today’s world. In the first session of BoF VOICES 2022, speakers addressed our moment of volatility, and why there’s cause for optimism.

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Conflict, Climate, Contagion

Clarissa Ward speaks about the war in Ukraine at BoF VOICES 2022.

By the end of this year, one in ten children around the world will face malnourishment, the result of the worst hunger crisis that the world has faced in a generation, said Mercy Corps CEO Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, describing in harrowing detail a recent trip to Somalia, where drought and soaring food prices have made the African country one of the worst hit.

The hunger crisis is just one of the ways the triple threat of climate change, conflict and the Covid-19 contagion are ricocheting through the global economy, with little relief in sight.

The Ukraine War has been a particularly destabilising force this year, turning the world’s grain fields into battlefields and spiking prices for energy and food. It’s a conflict with complex origins and no real winner, even if a political settlement can be negotiated.

In Ukrainian cities liberated from Russian occupation, “after jubilation, victory looks very grim and very dark and very empty,” said Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent CNN. “While there is no question that Ukraine is in a sense winning this war, it is coming at a very bitter cost.”

Turmoil in Markets and Culture

Tim Ingrassia speaks about the economic rollercoaster of the last few years and where we go from here at BoF VOICES 2022.

The uncertainty is playing out on stock markets and in popular culture.

”2021 just looks like a glitch in the matrix,” said Tim Ingrassia, managing director and co-chairman of global mergers and acquisitions at Goldman Sachs, describing how huge fluctuations in consumer spending have contributed to massive swings in company valuations in the last year. Heading into 2023, economic growth is expected to normalise, but major uncertainties remain. Adding to the turbulence is the pandemic of misinformation, said journalist Aymen Mohyeldin.

The generation coming of age today is angry, painfully aware of both the scale of the challenges they face and their role in perpetuating them. “We ought to be asking ourselves really hard questions,” said Ziad Ahmed co-founder and CEO of Gen-Z consultancy JUV. “I’m here wearing clothes that probably cost too much in a room full of people who probably make too much in a world where most people don’t have enough.”

Cause for Optimism

Mo Gawdat speaks about the risks of AI at BoF VOICES 2022.

But for all the challenges discussed in the session, there was cause for optimism. Ward stressed how the war in Ukraine has brought out the best in people along with the worst, citing the power of the human spirit.

“In a world of pandemics, climate crises and global hunger there is no us and them, only us,” said D’Oyen McKenna, arguing for a new sense of global community.

Mo Gawdat — author, founder of One Billion Happy and former chief business officer at Google X — painted a chilling picture of a not-too-distant future managed by artificial intelligence, but held out the possibility that people could teach sentient computers ethics that would allow them to help solve highly complex challenges like climate change and limit human suffering.

Tune into day two of BoF VOICES 2022 where we’ll begin by unveiling findings from our annual report, The State of Fashion 2023, in partnership with McKinsey & Company. Register for the livestream to watch global pioneers shifting the industry’s status quo and a daring group of entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists using technology to power a better future.

BoF VOICES 2022 is made possible in part through our partners McKinsey & Company, Shopify, Flannels, Brandlive, Lenzing, ShopRunner, Snap, Canada Goose, Invisible Collection, Soho House, and Getty Images.

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