Background - 06.05.2021 - 00:00 

“Democracy needs permanent maintenance”

It takes constant maintenance to keep a democracy alive, said Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider at the St.Gallen Symposium. He talked about the political state of the world, among other things, in a session with Dominic Barton, Canadian ambassador to China.

6 May 2021. Dominic Barton wanted to know from Mark Schneider during the conversation titled “Trust Matters: Looking Back, Moving Forward” how he sees the state of democracies today. More than 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and more than 25 years after Francis Fukuyama's “The End of History”, democracy still cannot be taken for granted, Schneider said. There is no natural path to it, he said, and unfortunately it should not be considered for granted. “If you want to achieve democracy, you have to work for it, and maintain it once you have achieved it”, Mark Schneider said – also quoting Benjamin Franklin's famous phrase: “A republic, if you can keep it!”

Trust has to be earned

From democracy, Dominic Barton and Mark Schneider also drew a bow to international politics, to multilateralism, which had suffered greatly during the past years. Among other things, Mark Schneider came to talk about the smartphone era, as he called it, and noted that especially in international politics, processes often took a lot of time, which was contrary to the very rapid understanding of time and expectations in our smartphone era. Trust also has to be earned on the international political stage, he said, for example, with relevant progress and results that people feel in a concrete way. But when he thinks, for example, of the WTO negotiations, which have actually been stuck for 20 years, people naturally lose patience and trust, he said.

“Speed, speed, speed”

Finally, Barton and Schneider also came to talk about Nestlé and how a multinational company moves in today's world. Mark Schneider said that his company had changed in that today it was no longer the big-style corporation from the past that centrally determined almost everything, but that it was actually the demands on products and markets that dictated everything else. “Speed, speed, speed”, said Mark Schneider, is a dominant criterion in today's smartphone age. As a rule, you get two seconds of attention from a person, nothing more. That's something you always have to keep in mind.

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