I was excited when this year’s major theme for Davos was announced as Responsive and Responsible Leadership. I expected to see many sessions focused on how the world’s business leaders could take ownership of solving the myriad of global challenges within their power.

Reading (and now reviewing) many of the sessions, my smile has faded as I observed that although the World Economic Forum is clearly telling the world we need an inclusive approach to economic growth, there is the same old navel-gazing whereby the majority of business leaders seem to believe it is up to governments to implement policies that influence market forces so their corporations can gain. Very little attention has been paid to how business leaders themselves can make their companies more inclusive, while retaining strong profitability.

It was pointed out by World Economic Forum that fewer than 10% of the world’s public companies account for 80% of all profits. These corporations are bigger than governments and affect the lives of millions of people, yet they call upon governments, not themselves, to make the markets more inclusive.

If 2017 is going to be the year that truly turns the market around to self-reflection, multi-sector collaboration and action is needed by the corporate sector. I mean true reflection where a business looks at its own supply chain, its own board of directors, its own product offerings and considers how it, as a global citizen, can make an impact that benefits all of society.

A corporate should not be pushing “Here’s my 10 commandments for making the world a better place and markets less risky for me” onto world leaders without looking first at themselves.

Call it shared value or inclusive business, it does not matter. What matters is we need leadership and for businesses to truly change their modus operandi if we are to tackle the key issues highlighted in this year’s Global Risk Report. Business leaders should ask themselves how their own company can do business with economically marginalised communities in a way that is mutually empowering.

Economic inequality, societal polarisation and environmental dangers are top trends that will shape global development in the next 10 years. Dr Martin Luther King once said: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

Today, and at Davos, this has never been more true.

We need leadership from all the major business leaders, particularly from Australian companies, who are lagging behind their overseas counterparts. We cannot keep holding up Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, to be the only true champion in this space. This is a leader who challenges the status quo and is not only talking about responsibility, but acting on it. This is not just corporate social responsibility or volunteering, but addressing where a businesses value chain intercedes with society and can have a positive impact.

Who in Australia represents this type of leadership? I say no one. We can’t continue to say this is the way it has always been done, because in an increasingly globalised world, those that adapt are more inclusive and transparent and are going to lead.

I take encouragement from the industry leadership of Peter Botten, managing director of Oil Search who has a profound commitment to the development of the people in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. In many ways, he has dedicated his life to their betterment, well above and beyond what would be expected of an oil and gas ceo. Peter has a profound understanding that such a commitment to community is the only way to protect the long term interests of his company in Papua New Guinea. There is tremendous potential for industry peers to step up in how they manage their investments in the developing world, thereby ensuring a transformative positive legacy that lasts well beyond the life of their operations.

And I am very excited by the work of Peter Johnson and his team at Cotton On,who have committed to partnering with poor Kenyan farmers to secure a sustainable supply of ethical cotton while enabling the communities to exit poverty.

There is vast potential for industry peers to follow the path of Cotton On. Once companies look into their supply chain and investigate how they might be more inclusive of the economically marginalised, great things can happen.

Olam, for example, a Singapore-based agricultural trading company has four million smallholder farmers in its supply chain. Under the leadership of Sunny Verghese, Olam has formed the Global Agri-business Alliance which aims to empower smallholder farmers to permanently exit poverty. This gives me great hope. But we need many more business leaders, especially in Australia, to stand up.

Corporations are crying foul when the public distrusts them, and they are edging closer to the same levels of mistrust enjoyed by governments. Perhaps if corporations would think less about what’s in it for them and more about what’s in it for everyone, and act accordingly, they might regain the trust of the public.

Unfortunately, even after the introspection caused by the global financial crisis, corporations in general remain trapped in short-term financial performance cycles and have not yet made the transition to a focus on long-term sustainable and inclusive growth.

If companies can make this transition, the sustainable development goals become imminently achievable because we will have harnessed the greatest force on earth for prosperity and inclusivity – the market.

Otherwise, I am afraid, we are going down the same well-travelled road.

Article published in The Guardian.