The WEF is promoting the promise to buy carbon offset flights, a redesigned conference center and a menu of local food. The fleet of vehicles that will bring many dignitaries to the ski resort is now 88% electric or hybrid.
Still, the group's actions are unlikely to discourage critics who argue that the forum and its participants are more concerned with optics than with systemic changes.
The WEF admits that because it "brings stakeholders together to help tackle the greatest ecological crisis of our time," it is consuming resources and causing emissions. 2020 should be "more sustainable than ever".
"The forum is committed to improving the state of the world, which is why the sustainability of our 50th annual meeting is paramount," said Lee Howell, general manager of the World Economic Forum, in a statement.
Ensuring a sustainable conference, however, is not an easy task – largely due to the sheer number of flights required to attract nearly 3,000 delegates from around the world, not to mention their followers, conference staff, security personnel, and the global media ,
WEF notes that it has offset all flights for accredited Participants in his conference since 2017 by purchasing emission credits that finance emissions-reducing projects. This year, credits will be used to offset conference emissions for projects that protect the Amazon from deforestation and convert methane from cow dung in Switzerland into energy.
However, Lucy Gilliam, aviation and shipping specialist at Transport & Environment, a European nonprofit organization dedicated to clean transportation, said there are drawbacks to compensation programs that need to be maintained over a long period of time and could take a while, until they grip.
"They don't really remove the emissions that this aircraft has generated," she said. "The plane will have burned this fuel and the carbon has been released into the atmosphere."
What is special about Davos, said Gilliam, are the many Participating government ministers and government officials choose private planes that produce more emissions per person than commercial flights.
Eymeric Segard, the CEO of LunaJets, says he is responding to the "flight shaming" movement. His Geneva-based company is pushing customers who want to book a private jet for Davos opt for smaller, more economical aircraft.
LunaJets also undertakes to offset all travel booked by purchasing emission credits. This means that some trips to the conference could be offset twice – by both LunaJets and WEF.
"[It’s a] "If you come from Africa, Asia, the United States and India, a train is simply out of the question."
The group said it offset 35,000 tonnes of emissions last year and funded not only efficient cookers in China, Mali, India and South Africa, but also the restoration of peatlands in the region where the annual meeting is taking place.
The WEF not only paid to offset all emissions, but also renovated the main conference center, where events take place, solar panels installed and geothermal heating. Paint extracted from seaweed was used to refresh some rooms. Rugs on stage will come from renewable sources, including "old fishing nets".
WEF is too Elimination of disposable plastics for bags and drinks. "Future Food Wednesday" will offer "a protein-rich, but meat and fish-free menu". And the technology of the Swiss art intelligence company Kitro is used to monitor food waste.