Just this weekend, my partner and I were chatting about the UK petrol protests of 2000 (it’s laugh a minute in our house sometimes…). At the time my partner was working in Poland for a week and couldn’t believe my reports from home – empty petrol stations, empty roads, no fresh fruit in the supermarkets and semi-panic buying of staple foods – all within a couple of days of fuel depots getting picketed. This small action had a massive impact on business, communities and individuals. It was a graphic demonstration of how vulnerable our modern economy is to quite minor events.
As chance would have it, Chatham House has released a report today suggesting our economy has taken ‘just in time’ to an extreme, leaving it vulnerable to low-probability/high-impact events like the Icelandic volcano, the Japanese earthquake and the 2004 tsunami. But, the report notes, there are also concerns about the resilience to high-probability/incremental impact environmental issues like climate change, resource depletion and water pressures.
We are seeing the pressures of unsustainability across the economy with energy prices having a higher impact on the economy than Government spending cuts. The big question for individual organisations is “are we resilient to these sudden and long term events?”
The subsidiary questions are:
- What will rising energy bills do to our business?
- What will scarcity of resources like rare earth metals do to our business?
- What will scarcity of water do to our business?
- What would legislation designed to protect or ration natural resources do to our business?
- What would the impact of more extreme weather events be on our business?
- Are our data and other resources safe from, say, increased flood risk?
- Do we have contingency plans in place for, say, expected lack of travel?
Of course the flip side to this is providing resilience to others as a business offering. As the effects of climate change and resource depletion ratchet up, this will be a growing market.