In our last post, we covered some potential mitigations for each of the top three environmental 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 geopolitical risks as we continue our series of posts inspired by the World Economic Forum‘s recently released 6th annual Global Risks report, 2011 edition.
Corruption can take many forms — bid rigging, bribery, collusion, fraud, embezzlement, organized crime, price fixing, and thievery just to name a few. Each of these can be devastating to your supply chain. Bid rigging, collusion, and price fixing can significantly increase your costs. Bribery and thievery can result in a loss of your IP and product plans which could negate years and tens of millions to hundreds of millions of research and development. Embezzlement and fraud could drain your organization of necessary operating capital and organized crime could result in an entire warehouse of inventory disappearing overnight.
While big rigging, collusion, and price fixing by your suppliers can’t be prevented, if the organization suspects it might be occurring, it can always invite new, unexpected, but pre-qualified, suppliers to a bid to minimize the possibility, or at least provide it with other options if multiple suppliers appear to be colluding. This is the best defence since, even if collusion and price fixing can be detected and proven, by the time government intervention occurs, it can be much too late.
And while one cannot prevent thieves from trying to steal your IP and products, steps can be taken to keep your IP secure. All electronic copies can be encrypted and kept secure on the network behind password protected firewalls, printed copies can be restricted to secure areas, and all unnecessary copies can be destroyed by destructive shredding. And your shipping plans can be kept on a need to know basis, and valuable merchandise can be kept in guarded secure warehouses.
Bribery, fraud, and embezzlement can also be prevented against to different degrees. With respect to bribery, an organization can watch for signs of an employee who recently improved his lifestyle significantly with no obvious means to do so (i.e. no recent inheritance or lottery win), determine if such employee had access to sensitive data, and the chance to sell it. In this case, if such an action was deemed likely, the organization could assume the data fell into the wrong hands and take preventative measures. With respect to embezzlement, an organization should insure that all transactions are reviewed by a second individual, and all transactions above a considerable amount should be co-reviewed by the CFO and another executive officer within two business days. And external audits should be conducted regularly. Other types of fraud could be harder to detect, but regular financial reviews are an organization’s best chance of detecting fraud before too much damage occurs.
Not only is terrorism on the rise, but so are the number of terrorist and extremist groups and agendas — and it’s almost impossible to predict which group will form, and be “crossed” by your organization well in advance of when it happens. But if an organization keeps up with global intelligence, it can keep up with what organizations have commercial, and corporate agendas, identify if it produces any goods or services that might be targeted by such groups, and identify if it operates in any high risk areas. If it does, it can take steps to protect its operations and its goods.
01: Geopolitical Conflict
Fortunately, most conflicts that would threaten an operation escalate over time. Again, if an organization keeps up with political happenings in a region, it can identify those regions most likely to be at risk of geopolitical conflict and determine if such conflict could impact operations or cut off supply. If factories could be cut off, the organization can identify back-up facilities and create plans for bringing them on-line quickly. If warehouses could be cut off, critical goods can be relocated. Knowing allows plans to be created.