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Article | Managing Risk

How can I prepare my business in light of civil unrest risk?

By Frederick Gentile and Lucy Stanbrough | September 21, 2022

There are measures your business can take now to prepare for potential unrest.
Risk and Analytics|Risk Management Consulting
Geopolitical Risk

Political and other risks can emerge rapidly, even in societies that have enjoyed stable business conditions for years. This means simple trend assessments or data analysis are inadequate in gauging the potential financial impact.

There will be enormous reliance on the forces of law and order in those potentially extreme scenarios and, realistically organisations can only work towards mitigating the impacts of such events within reason. Nevertheless, there are actions organisations can take now to embolden their stance and boost their preparedness for the eventuality of civil unrest.

Your organisation’s civil unrest readiness action points today might be to:

  • Review risk registers to ensure civil unrest and associated risks are included and regularly evaluated.
  • Scan the horizon by introducing measures to baseline and monitor societal ‘temperature’, such as public mood, media coverage, social media sentiment towards your organisation, activist reactions, and identify early episodes of societal disorder, including protests.
  • Update business continuity plans, IT disaster recovery plans, strategies to cope with staff shortages, and any other contingency plans, and ensure these are shared and understood by key stakeholders.
  • Quantify operational factors, such as stock levels, staff deployments, supplier call-off and the like, assessing how each would be affected in the event of serious disruption.
  • Ensure your crisis response structure is clear and ready to be activated at short notice.
  • Establish communication strategies, including with media and social media, as well as response and monitoring arrangements.
  • Consider scenario planning with executive teams, so they have ready answers to the questions of, “If civil unrest happened tomorrow, what would you do?”, allowing for input from each of the organisation’s key functions in this process.
  • Assess standing security arrangements and potential additional call-off measures.
  • Review your insurance provisions to understand exactly what is and isn’t covered and where the gaps may need addressing ahead of potential losses.
  • Liaise with lenders to assess the scope for cashflow facility, should it be required.
  • Communicate your readiness for disruption with customers and suppliers, articulating your plans to keep the business on the front foot, even in the event of civil unrest or other crises. This might act a point of differentiation when compared with peers, allowing your organisation to pivot to opportunity more readily.

How can the business manoeuvre beyond box-ticking to true preparedness?

The last two years have taught us the ‘new normal’ is the ‘never normal’. It’s worth recalling that while pandemic flu was at the top of the U.K. risk register, when that risk crystallised, the country was shown as under-prepared. 1

This demonstrates how true preparedness is about evaluating, monitoring and acting on new risks, not simply acknowledging where risk exists and having only hypothetical responses that don’t adequately reflect what’s really required when crises strike.

Being ready for crises means ensuring your risk management framework (RMF) is both robust whilst being receptive to ever-changing exposures. Increasingly, these frameworks are required to metabolise how extraordinary events are becoming less theoretical and more day-to-day reality.

Learn more about preparing for civil unrest and future risks

You’re invited to register for a new WTW Training Academy session: Ready for the future: Are you prepared for tomorrow’s risk landscape? This expert-led forum will focus on how your organisation can create robust and change-receptive RMFs.

The webinar will also consider how to use scenarios to explore possible futures and examine why organisations should bring together perspectives from across business units to ensure RMFs are fit-for-purpose and the entire business is properly preparing for the future. Register here.


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Head of Emerging Risks and Business Engagement

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