February Monthly Briefing: Mitigating business risks 

We kick off this year’s regular monthly focus on actions businesses can take to be more sustainable, by looking at risk. Time to put on a metaphorical hard hat. From where I sit, the outlook is intensely depressing, whether in Eastern Europe and the Middle East or further, from the South China Sea and beyond.

Even more sobering is this year’s Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum, published in January. Both its two-year and ten-year outlooks are markedly more negative than previously. Topping the list of respondents’ immediate worries is extreme weather, next is AI-generated misinformation, followed by some 20 other concerns. WEF’s contextual analysis identifies four structural forces at play, with climate change being one. Our writers this month advocate techniques such as scenario planning and carbon pricing to mitigate or at least anticipate this. Our guest post highlights help on transition planning.

That said, sustainability practitioners need to see beyond their focus on climate to look at the other contextual forces, which WEF identifies as demographic change, technological acceleration and geostrategic shifts. Our ‘long read’ this month focuses on the role of boards in mitigating these risks. It suggests how to equip non-executive directors with the skills and awareness to be critical friends, with what I call a wide-angled view across all three of sustainability’s bottom lines.

Of these I continue to believe that ‘people’ is both the most important and the key to getting the other two right. That requires boards and directors to be clear about the purpose of their business, to articulate the positive difference it is making, and to ensure that values and behaviours are fully aligned. Mere compliance with EU or SEC reporting rules won’t achieve that, although it may expose shortcomings – a topic we will undoubtedly return to in future months.

Our full set of Actions for Business 2024 is still available here. Next month we’ll be looking at the growing implications of artificial intelligence, positive and negative. Meanwhile if you value these briefings, why not forward to a friend and invite them to sign up here?

Visit the February Monthly Briefing here.

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