In our last post, we covered some potential mitigations for each of the top three technology risks that we identified in our Risk 2011 series. In this post, we are going to cover some potential mitigations for each of the top three societal risks as we continue our series of posts inspired by the World Economic Forum‘s recently released 6th annual Global Risks report, 2011 edition.
03: Economic Disparity
Economic disparity can negatively impact a Supply Management organization in a number of ways. An obvious impact is if the majority of the target population in the geographic regions in which the parent organization operates, and wishes to sell the product, cannot afford the goods or services being offered. In this case, Supply Management will be stressed to lower the price point or risk serious resource cutbacks as the organization faces reduced revenues and operating resources.
This is a hard risk to counter in that an average global multi-national cannot make a significant impact on a national economy. While BNP Paribas has assets that are greater than the GDP all of France (2.68 Trillion compared to France’s 2.56 Trillion GDP), even Walmart only has assets of 181 Billion (which is barely greater than the GDP of Pakistan). Once you get out of the Global 1500, where only 27 companies control more than 1 Trillion of Assets, only 217 companies control more than 100 Billion of assets, only 400 companies control more than 50 Billion of assets, only 904 companies control more than 20 Billion of assets, and only 1437 companies control more than 10 Billion of assets, you see that the ability of an average corporation to make a significant dent on an economy is miniscule.
However, an organization can prepare for it. By following economic trends and consulting leading economists and strategic intelligence agencies, it can create potential scenarios (using scenario planning) of what its target economies are likely to look like next quarter, next year, and in three years time. From this, it can determine what consumer price points it will likely need to meet to hit sales target, and determine what “cost” targets it will need to stay under or, if the cost of production cannot be brought down to the target cost, what value it will need to bring to justify a higher cost point, and, eventually, a higher sales price. And if an organization knows a year in advance of a potential economic decline, it has time to identify new designs, new materials, and new sources of supply in an effort to meet the cost targets that the organization feels are necessary to survive.
02: Food Security
People need to eat. As a result, they need access to safe, secure sources of staple foods at an affordable price point. If they don’t have access to safe, secure sources of staple foods at an affordable price point, they riot — as we have seen in Tunisia, Algeria, Bangladesh, Mogadishu, India, China, and even the UK and Canada last year. When people riot, property gets destroyed — property that could include your delivery trucks, your goods in your warehouses, and even your production plants.
This is another risk that you can’t do much about. You can be a good citizen and not corner the market and artificially drive up prices in the name of greed, but you can’t prevent a greedy, money-grubbing, wall-street-type from being evil and doing the last thing that should be done in a time of need. All you can do is try to predict where riots are most likely to occur if food becomes insecure, which of your assets are most at risk, and take steps to physically protect them. And while SI believes they are a blight on the landscape, electric chain-link fences and, in extreme cases, “armed” guards (tasers and/or other non-lethal choices, please) may be necessary to keep not only your goods, but your people, secure.
01: Water Security
Not only do people need water, but supply chains need water. First of all, supply chains need energy. Energy production requires water. For example, in the USA, about 2 US gallons of water must evaporate to create one kilowatt hour of energy. Steel, which is a component of many goods, requires 62,000 gallons of water for the production of a single ton. Semi-conductor fabrication plants often require up to 2,000 gallons of water per minute.
While it’s hard to maintain food security, as unpredictable and unpreventable natural disasters can wipe out entire crops in a province or state overnight, with a little planning and foresight, water security can be maintained. While most of it is not drinkable, almost 71% of our planet is covered by water. And it’s relatively easy to clean water with modern technology. You can build your own desalination and filtration plants and your own pumping stations and not rely on public utilities, which might already be facing undue strain. You can even make the extra investment to make the water drinkable. Or, if the cost is too high, you can form a cooperative with your manufacturing neighbours that also need water for the purposes of forming your own local water utility. We should never be in need for water.