How should businesses prepare for an era of permacrisis?
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How should businesses prepare for an era of permacrisis?

How should businesses prepare for an era of permacrisis?

Among the major risks for businesses in 2024 are climate change, geopolitical instability, and employee burnout, emphasising the need for proactive measures and resilience to ensure business continuity

Marisha Singh

“Permacrisis” as a term was made popular in 2022 after Collins Dictionary chose it as the word of the year. The portmanteau of the words perma and crisis embodied the sense of lurching from one unprecedented event to another, while anticipating new troubles around the corner.

This word additionally represented a shift from the way the notion of crisis was conventionally defined. From climate change to multiple tensions on the geopolitical front, businesses are having to prepare to operate in a global environment that is constantly in turmoil.

Gulf Business spoke to Sebastian Bedu, general manager, International SOS about their risk outlook for 2024 and how businesses should operate in an era of permacrisis.

Q: Could you tell me or give our readers an introduction to your report, what went behind it, and what is the main takeaway you want our readers to have?

Sure, the Risk Outlook 2024 has a number of recommendations made by International SOS, based on key pillars to ensure that the predictions we provide to our clients are actionable and help them increase resilience and support their operations. Our methodology includes a survey of over 700 respondents within our ecosystem, as well as insights from a panel of experts and representatives who provide their expectations for 2024. From these inputs, we shape our main predictions.

For 2024, we believe the increasing effect and impact of climate change will significantly affect our clients and their operations in the Middle East and beyond. Additionally, geopolitical instability and the risk of not properly managing employee well-being and preventing burnout are major concerns.

Q: What are the top risks that businesses in the region should be aware of when it comes to climate change?

First, I want to congratulate the UAE and its leadership for organising such a successful COP28. As a local company incorporated in Dubai for many years, we are proud to operate in an environment where the government takes ESG matters very seriously.

Regarding climate change, the most critical point is its local impact worldwide, including the Middle East. Businesses need to be ready to operate and ensure business continuity in this rapidly changing environment.

The first step is acknowledging that climate change impacts business continuity.

Being ready involves having processes and protocols in place, working with providers to ensure resilience, and protecting your employees and business operations. This preparation is crucial as it impacts productivity, finances, and overall stability.

Q: Regional tensions are another risk factor. With the recent Red Sea crisis, how prepared was International SOS for such an event?

International SOS has a long history of handling crises in partnership with our clients. We’ve been addressing geopolitical instability, including the recent Red Sea crisis, which has shown the importance of being prepared for disruptions in key logistics pathways. Our experience with crises like the one in Sudan underscores our commitment to crisis management, and we continue to offer workshops to help clients identify and plan for potential threats.

Q: Employee burnout is a growing concern. Why did International SOS highlight this as a risk factor, and what can businesses do about it?

Employee well-being is a significant concern, with burnout costing billions in the region. We commend the UAE’s National Program for Happiness and Well-being as a model for other countries. Businesses need to enhance employee well-being to avoid burnout and ensure business continuity. This can involve implementing supportive measures and creating a positive work environment.

Q: How should businesses prepare for future extreme weather events like the April 16 rains in the UAE?

The UAE’s recent record-breaking rainfall highlights the growing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change. Businesses must adopt proactive measures, sustainable practices, and climate-resilient technologies to mitigate these impacts. This approach will help enhance resilience and minimise disruptions to operations.

By understanding these risks and implementing the recommended strategies, businesses can better navigate the challenges posed by the age of permacrisis and maintain their operations effectively.

Read: Running on empty: Are you ready for the burnout crisis?

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