The Challenge of the Climate Crisis

New ways to better manage the natural disasters and climate risks of today and tomorrow.

The analysis of natural disasters and climate risks is a new challenge for many companies. Be it for adapting to a changing risk landscape due to climate change or the regulatory required disclosure of climate risks such as the Taskforce for Climate Financial Disclosure (TCFD) or the new EU taxonomy. Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offers insights into how it uses its own long-standing expertise in the field of natural catastrophes to provide sustainable support to companies for regulatory requests as well as in setting up a holistic climate risk strategy.

From obligation to profit

The disclosure of climate risks is still often seen as a must, as this is required by the regulator. However, such analysis also brings great advantages for the company. For example, locations can be identified that are already exposed in today’s climate and, above all, those that will become so in the future because of ongoing climate changes. With targeted investments in protective measures, e.g. against flood events, or a revision of disaster management, future business interruptions, damage to the site, or accidents can be reduced. These types of analyses also form a valid basis for a company’s long-term climate strategy. With the best available data on future risks and the possible development of damages and insurance premiums, investment decisions can be made more effectively, for example when acquiring or constructing new sites or near-natural construction methods, e.g. investments in green areas or solar energy.

A risk analysis supported by experts

The Solutions & Risk Data Services of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions enables the analysis of natural disasters and climate risks. Various tools and services are available such as Sustainability Compass, the interactive online tool; high-resolution flood analyses e.g. FLOAT; or the recommendations by risk engineers for the reduction of today’s and tomorrow’s climate risks .  The Climate Risk Scores developed by Swiss Re provide insight into the changing landscape of weather-related climate risks and form the basis of risk analysis. They show the impact of future climate risks by combining science-based data, those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), with Swiss Re’s natural hazard risk maps, such as flood and storm surge zones. Natural hazards such as droughts, heat stress, floods or heavy precipitation are covered for three different IPCC climate scenarios in five-year intervals from 2025 to the end of the century.

Companies can analyse their climate risks with the help of the aforementioned Sustainability Compass. The tool creates a digital representation of the company’s locations including their assets and calculates the exposure to natural hazards in the current and future climate. The tool also takes into account the natural risks to biodiversity and ecosystem services, and provides information on the availability of groundwater, soil fertility, and eight other natural parameters. To make the findings of Sustainability Compass easier to understand and implement, experts can be consulted to produce tailored analyses – including recommendations for reducing climate and natural hazard risks.

How companies address climate risks

More and more companies are gaining experience in analysing and reporting climate risks. Typical questions and requirements for solutions that concern company executives are:

Best available data for climate risk reporting.

  • Support to fill knowledge gaps regarding the current company risk profile and to make newly emerging or intensifying climate risks visible.
  • Provide data to conduct a climate risk and vulnerability analysis according to EU taxonomy.

Quantification of the financial impacts of physical climate risks.

  • Insight into the current expected annual losses and their development based on different SSP climate scenarios (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways)
  • Overview of options for risk mitigation measures

Insights for informed decision making.

  • Data for informed prioritisation of investments
  • Linking risk and sustainability teams on a data/tool basis

The experience and positive feedback from analysed companies confirm the success of these new ways of sustainable risk management for natural disasters and climate risks by Swiss Re and Swiss Re Corporate Solutions: “By assessing the climate risk portfolio for our risk vulnerability analysis, we have gained interesting insights into our climate risks and also valuable knowledge for defining measures for different locations.”, Frequentis.

Annemarie Büttner

Lead Climate Risk Solutions

Neil Aellen

Climate Risk Specialist

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Smart Risk Management – Fast, Precise, Safe?

Does smart risk management provide more transparency and security? Where will AI be applied successfully in the future? How valid are the results or is the crux in the detail?

Can the interaction of “man and machine” positively influence the ability to plan and avoid or reduce future risk potentials? Will artificial intelligence revolutionise the risk manager’s toolbox?
In recent months, with its text-based dialogue system, Chatbot ChatGPT, Open AI has written a new chapter in the history of the “mass-market” use of artificial intelligence (AI). For many companies, however, AI has long been one of their key success factors. Digital twins, simulations or intelligent machines help to accelerate innovations, optimise quality management and production processes, or improve the efficiency and service life of entire plants.
However, does smart risk management provide more transparency and security? Where will AI be applied successfully in the future? How valid are the results or is the crux in the detail? These are just some of the questions risk managers should be asking themselves now.

Five reasons for the symbiosis of risk manager and AI

  • AI is used to enable the accurate analysis and assessment of existing risks. AI systems can identify complex data patterns and relationships in risk assessment. For example, an AI system can be used to determine systematic risks by using pattern recognition tools and machine learning. This better identifies the likelihood of events that increase risk.

    In practice: AI-based supply chain management can detect risk events for suppliers and predict future supply chain outcomes by monitoring a variety of data sources.
  • AI helps make risk management processes more efficient by providing automated alerts, predicted warnings and automated decisions.

    In practice: By using AI, predictive maintenance of systems and structures, such as machines and buildings, can be carried out even before a problem occurs. This prevents or minimises disruptions or downtime.
  • AI can monitor the effectiveness of existing risk management processes by performing risk and cost analyses to determine the most appropriate risk mitigation measures.

    In practice: Specifically in finance, e.g. credit risks, large amounts of data about customers’ payment behaviour, their financial situation, historical lending practices and other factors can be analysed to optimise the lending process or identify deviations.
  • AI can identify and predict potential risks by using machine learning to forecast future risk areas.

    In practice: Dynamic risk modelling of climate risks can support strategic decisions – e.g. for site selection for the construction/acquisition of new key sites.
  • Finally, AI helps monitor potential risks by continuously looking for potential risks in the environment or triggering alerts when they are detected.

    In practice: AI can process and analyse data about the activities of employees in high-risk environments. This can be particularly useful to improve safety in  environments where dangerous or fatal accidents are imminent. AI algorithms can evaluate behavioural patterns that are detected prior to accidents. This can be used to run predictive scenarios that improve safety procedures and prevent incidents.

Data quality is key

While AI systems can recognise and process complex data patterns, their results are only fully comprehensible and valid if they can be traced back to a high-quality, correct, and meaningful database.
Verification of AI will be the future challenge for the risk manager, as AI systems can also make very complex and opaque decisions. The following six points should definitely be considered to verify and correctly interpret AI data:

  • Checking data quality: AI systems are only as good as the data on which they are trained. It is important to ensure that the data used to build the AI models is of a high quality and free from bias or manipulation.
  • Review the training processes: It is important to understand how AI models were trained and what parameters were used. This helps to ensure the integrity of the models.
  • Testing AI models: testing on different datasets can confirm the accuracy and predictive power of the model.
  • Using clarification methods: When AI models are opaque, clarification methods, such as decision trees, can be used to visualise and understand the models’ decisions.
  • Verify the results: The results of AI models should be regularly reviewed to ensure that the models continue to work correctly and factor in changes in business processes or data.
  • Review by independent experts: Finally, it may be useful to have the use of AI models reviewed by independent experts to confirm their accuracy and integrity


For risk managers, AI systems have become an important tool in their toolbox to support effective, efficient risk management. It enables them to act faster and more accurately, to identify and assess risks before they develop into a potential threat.

Furthermore, they must be able to understand and interpret the results of the AI systems to ensure that the results are comprehensible.
The insurance industry – and especially reinsurers with their R&D activities – is one of the industries that relies on AI and has recognised its enormous potential: AI-powered data analytics enables insurers and their clients to develop a much deeper understanding of risks so that they can be more effectively mitigated or covered to some extent by new insurance solutions, whether in natural catastrophes, healthcare or financial, ESG or geopolitical risks.

Michael Brunner

Johannes Vogl

General Manager GrECo Risk Engineering

T +43 5 04 04 – 160

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Investing in Backup Systems to boost resilience: Interview with Mariana Kühnel

Mariana Kühnel, Deputy General Secretary of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce spoke with Georg Winter, CEO GrECo Group about staying calm in these unpredictable times and how Europe can gain comparative advantages in the age of geopolitical transformation.

Winter: Recently you have been present in the Austrian media, speaking about the situation of Austrian companies in the Ukraine in view of the war. Does the war in the Ukraine show us the dramatic face of a new political world order?

Kühnel: Austria’s economy has been remarkably resilient so far in the face of the unstable geopolitical situation. But of course, there are continuing downward risks to the Austrian economic development, most pressing in the Energy sector. Energy prices in Europe are currently higher than in other parts of the world, massively hampering economic growth.
Given the current geopolitical situation and the increasing instability of existing supply chains, the EU needs to find viable alternatives and more than ever engage with up-and-coming regions such as Latin America & Southeast Asia. EU trade agreements not only ensure better market access for goods, services, and investments in third countries, but are also an important tool to mitigate negative socio-economic developments. They help strengthen the economic resilience of businesses by providing opportunities for much needed supply chain diversification.

Winter: The war also made us aware of Europe´s dramatic energy dependency, particularly on Russian natural gas. How can the economy become independent and mitigate this risk in the medium to long term?

Kühnel: A warm winter and our strong efforts to store gas helped us to avoid energy shortages. But the current crisis is not over yet. To reduce our dependency from Russia, we need to further diversify our energy supply. On the one hand by accelerating the deployment of renewable energy in Europe, on the other hand by building up new energy imports routes. In addition to improving energy efficiency and the availability of renewable electricity, we need to invest in back-up systems, climate-neutral gas, and liquid energy sources to compensate for the resulting volatility. Especially with the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 in mind, we need to employ all alternatives that can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases and embrace the principle of technological openness.

Winter: With the new Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the United States are currently attracting numerous European companies to invest overseas., in particular in the field of renewable energy and infrastructure. What chances do you see and how should the European Union react to avoid the danger of de-industrialization in Europe?

Kühnel: First and foremost, it is important to stay calm. A subsidy race between the EU and the United States is the last thing we need right now. As far as the level of funding is concerned, we see that existing EU funding is in no way inferior to the IRA. However, the IRA comes with much less regulations and bureaucracy than we have here in Europe. Therefore, we can actually learn from the US in this regard, on how a policy design for the EU could look like. In addition, the IRA mainly focusses on mass deployment of green technologies rather than innovation. By focusing on early-stage development and increasing EU resilience to trade disruptions the EU might gain a comparative advantage in the medium to long term.

Winter: The United States are also gaining in importance for European companies in view of the cooling relations with China, which is confidently promoting its role on the global stage. The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative for instance demonstrates the future balance of power. Strategic competition between the U.S. and China is driving global fragmentation as both focus on boosting self-reliance, reducing vulnerabilities, and decoupling their technology sectors.

While China was one of the most promising trading partners just a few years ago, companies are now faced with political unpredictability resulting in unreliable supply chains, to name just one effect. Taiwan is another key flashpoint. How do you see the future development of foreign trade with China?

Kühnel: In these unpredictable times we are currently living in, we can observe a trend that companies are looking into diversifying their markets and supply chains. However, China will remain an important player on the world economic stage given the sheer size of its market. Although 2022 was a tough year for Austrian businesses in China, our trade relations actually increased. From January until November Austrian exports rose by 9.6% and imports registered a plus of 33%.

Winter: Do you see trends that the lessons learned from the supply chain problems over the last few years will lead to a relocation of production back to Europe, for example Eastern Europe?

Kühnel: We have indeed learned that, in addition to efficiency, we need to pay increased attention to resilience and the reduction of strategic dependencies in our international trade relations. Various legislative initiatives at the EU-level, such as the European Chips Act or the Critical Raw Materials Act, are designed to do exactly that. In addition, it is important to also expand our trade relations with like-minded partners and promote global cooperation.

Winter: The European Union has been negotiating an association agreement with the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) to create stable and predictable rules for trade in goods, services and investments. In 2019, an agreement in principle was reached. What is the strategic relevance of those countries for European companies and which other territories should be on the radar for the future?

Kühnel: Europe is deeply connected with Latin America by common languages, culture, and commerce. We are like-minded partners with shared values and interests. Faced with an unprecedented multitude of crises, it is crucial to deepen our economic ties with this up-and-coming region. In addition, global climate concerns require urgent and coordinated action to ensure a transition toward clean energy. The access to critical raw materials, is one of the preconditions for the digital and green transition in Europe. We should therefore secure our resource supply channels through EU trade agreements.
With regards to other areas of strategic interest, the EU is currently negotiating with Indonesia and Australia. We hope that also negotiations with the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia will soon continue. These potential markets offer great potentials for Austrian businesses. Indonesia and the Philippines combined have over 380 million inhabitants and in the case of Australia offer important resources like Lithium, cobalt, and rare earths metals. When it comes to Africa, there is also a geopolitical need to strengthen the EU’s presence on the continent. In the past we have seen increasing engagement of China and Russia on the continent, mostly to the detriment of the traditional close ties to Europe. Therefore, deepening and improving EU-Africa relations should be a priority.

Winter: Companies in all industries are struggling to find new employees. In view of the demographic developments, there are clear signs of a dramatic shortage of workforce in Europe. On the other hand, fewer and fewer people are willing to work full-time. What are the most urgent actions for both, companies and politics and what role will migration play in the future?

Kühnel: The demographic development and the resulting lack of skilled workers is really challenging for Europe. In Austria, the number of 20- to 65-year-olds is said to decline by 244.000 by 2040. Much more needs to be done to allow companies to fill their vacancies and to close this developing gap. Apart from tapping the domestic potential, by increasing the number of women in full time employment and by mobilising older people, a clear focus must be put on developing a qualified migration policy.

Georg Winter


T +43 664 962 39 06

Mariana Kühnel

Deputy General Secretary of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce

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The New Silk Roads

The New Silk Roads

This article will provoke thoughts and create awareness about the new political world order, the changing influence of Western and Eastern powers as well as the emergence and formation of a new centre of gravity in the global economy. It takes a close look at an emerging geopolitical dominance and focuses on the new crossroads between the West and the East – the New Silk Roads.

The past two and a half years have been extraordinary in terms of rising levels of macroeconomic uncertainty and business cycles. The troubling combination of a global pandemic exacerbated by energy shortages, soaring inflation and geopolitical tensions poses serious challenges to businesses in managing emerging risks and opportunities. The systems, institutions and orders that have supported global stability and security for decades are now unravelling and taking on new forms.

Geography will shape future politics

Over the past hundred years, geo-politicians have proposed three theories depicting the control of the world from a geographical perspective:

  • In his “Sea Power” theory, Alfred Thayer Mahan from the United States argued that those who controlled the sea would control the world.
  • In his “Heartland” theory, Halford John Mackinder from Britain argued that those who controlled Eurasia would control the world,
  • while Nicholas John Spykman from the United States argued in his “Rim Land” theory that those who controlled the rim land would control it.

Not so long ago, former White House Strategic Adviser Steve Bannon proposed that China’s “Belt and Road” initiative embodied all three theories, intending to control the world by promoting this initiative.  

Geopolitical risks are reshaping the world

Geopolitical risks refer to a situation involving power struggles such as wars, aggravated tension between states or terrorist attacks that cannot be resolved peacefully. Up to now, geopolitical risks were always related to growing geopolitical tensions between the world’s major powers.

It would be correct to define the current geopolitical situation in the world as a period of uncertainty. The 20th century saw two world wars. After World War II, the United Nations was formed to prevent similar catastrophes and disasters in the future. Soon thereafter, it became obvious that the two existing superpowers USA and USSR were engaged in a fierce competition known as the Cold War. Alarmingly, and as a result of the arms race, a large amount of the weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological) were produced. The Cold War ended after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation as its heir took control of the former Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction.

Today, the economic impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine has many facets that will aggravate numerous problems associated with it:

  • The energy supply in Europe
  • The food supply in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Inflation
  • Closed transportation or trade routes
  • Global supplies of energy and other raw materials

Russia’s war in Ukraine also heightened another possible risk: that of accidental shelling on the territory of a NATO member state. The severity of the consequences of such an incident cannot be predicted. A nuclear threat – or more precisely the spread of radiation – exists even without weapons being used because the biggest nuclear power plant in Ukraine has been under heavy shelling. Intentional damage to the nuclear power plant would create a real disaster, not only for Ukraine but for Europe as a whole, as well as for the rest of the world.

Geopolitical transformation will create a new centre of gravity in the world

“Ancient Greece begat Rome, Rome begat Christian Europe, Christian Europe begat the Renaissance, the Renaissance the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment political democracy and the industrial revolution. Industry crossed with democracy in turn yielded the United States, embodying the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This is the story we have been told – the mantra of the political, cultural, and moral triumph of the West. However, watching current events unfold, this account seems flawed. There are other ways of looking at the world and its past ways that do not take the perspective of the winners of recent history.

Today, much attention is devoted to assessing the likely impact of rapid economic growth in China, where the demand for luxury goods is forecast to quadruple in the next decade. Similarly, social change is happening in India, where more people have access to a mobile phone than a flushing toilet.

On the other hand, the halfway point between the East and the West, running from the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to the Himalayas, might seem to be an irrelevant position from which to assess the world. This region is home to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and the countries of the Caucasus.

It is a region that is associated with regimes that are unstable, violent and a threat to international security, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria – or ill-versed in best practices of democracy, such as Russia and Azerbaijan. Overall, it appears to be a region that is home to a series of failed or failing states, led by dictators who win impossibly large majorities in national elections and whose families and friends control sprawling business interests, own vast assets, and wield political power. These are places with poor human rights records, where freedom of expression in matters concerning faith, conscience and sexuality is limited, and where control of the media dictates what does and what does not appear in the press.

These countries seem foreign to us and are treated by the Western world as obscure and political backwaters. Yet, in fact, they are the bridge between the East and the West. They represent the very crossroads of civilisation – as they have always been since the beginning of history: The New Silk Roads.

Ways to manage geopolitical risks

Our world is already undergoing a global transition to the next economic era. This transition can be considered through the prism of the PEST analysis. However, we have replaced the traditional economic factors with factors concerning energy:

  • Political – The world order is moving towards multipolarity, a reassembly into regionally and ideologically aligned groups. Such multipolar changes, coupled with regionalisation, create new risks for companies operating in different countries.
  • Energy – Resource-based energy systems face security vulnerabilities as they channel investments into low-carbon energy sources. At the same time, they must meet a growing demand for energy. The transition towards a carbon-neutral economy will thus be accompanied by geopolitical tension between global producers and consumers of energy resources. This creates several risks for companies active in the energy sector.
  • Social – Demographic forces will transform a young world into an aging urban world, an era of infectious diseases may give way to an era of non-communicable diseases, and inequality within states may increasingly challenge the social structure and the businesses that support it.
  • Technology – Technology platforms face a rapid growth of transversal technologies, particularly artificial intelligence, or bioengineering, which, if combined, could create another great surge of progress in the next economic era and create new risks and opportunities for companies and global institutions.

These factors pose new geopolitical and macroeconomic challenges for businesses. They, in turn, must respond through effective risk management and insurance systems. An effective risk management strategy serves as a compelling tool for increasing enterprise value through its risk function. Any decision made by the company’s management increases, preserves, or reduces the enterprise value of that company.
Due to risk being an integral part of value creation, leading strategically oriented businesses do not seek to eliminate a risk. Their approach creates a new perspective of risk management, as opposed to past traditional views of risk that considered it as something to be avoided. Rather, these businesses seek to manage risk across all parts of their organisation so that at any given time, they are taking just the right types of risk necessary to effectively achieve the company’s strategic goals. This optimal risk appetite or optimal risk zone is shown in the picture below.

optimal risk appetite

The most versatile and effective risk management tools that effectively describe and manage geopolitical risks include the following:

  • Event tree analysis – a graphical technique that represents the mutually exclusive sequences of events that can take place after an initial event, depending on whether various systems designed to modify the consequences are functioning. An event tree can be quantified to provide probabilities of different possible outcomes.
  • Scenario analysis, which involves identifying one or more risk scenarios, detailing the key assumptions (conditions or drivers) that determine the magnitude of the impact, and assessing the impact on the key target.

The role of a company’s risk function is crucial in correctly assessing the geopolitical risks and defining the optimal risk appetite that will, in turn, enable a company’s enterprise value to grow. After mapping geopolitical risks against the company’s optimal risk appetite, one can work with the risks above it and address the insurance market for transferring these risks. The role of the insurance broker is to collaborate closely with the company’s risk function in tailoring an effective insurance program that meets the exact insurance demand of the company and maximises the insurance value.

Peter Frankopan, The silk roads: a new history of the world
McKinsey Global Institute, On the cusp of a new era?

About Mykhailo Rushkovskyi:
– MBA, PhD researcher
– Founder of
Winner of the European Risk Management Awards 2022 – Business Continuity Programme of the Year

Mykhailo Rushkovskyi

Mykhailo Rushkovskyi

Head of Research & Analysis
Kyiv Consulting

Zviadi Vardosanidze

General Manager GrECo Specialty

T +43 664 962 39 04

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Managing the risks of Black Swan events

Managing the risks of Black Swan events

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future!”
(Niels Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics)

Emerging risks and new threats that are hard to grasp and estimate are a much-discussed topic. Add to that today’s increasing number of Black Swan events. These are unprecedented and unexpected events which nobody could have imagined, making them almost impossible to predict.
Experience shows that Black Swan events can, however, turn into emerging risks and can eventually be regarded as conventional risks and be treated as such in terms of standard risk management processes. Cyber risks, a blackout or pandemic comes to mind as typical examples.

Lack of patent recipes for complex issues

Strategic warning systems are thus gaining importance for both strategic management as well as for corporate risk management. In principle, this topic is not new in business theory and practice, but there is still a lack of “patent recipes” due to the complexity of this issue.  This is mainly because, due to the lack of empirical data for such events, subjective assessments and evaluations can naturally turn out differently. Scientific debates on this topic can be traced back to the mid-1970s.
Back then, Igor Ansoff’s theory of monitoring weak signals was deemed a milestone in business management. Ansoff established that companies are surprised by discontinuity because traditional planning processes – if such situations have been considered in a timely manner – are not suitable. According to Ansoff, an arising discontinuity can be identified by increasing management’s awareness of weak signals, such as:

  • An accumulation of similar events within the company
  • The dissemination of to date unknown opinions, ideas, and statements
  • Trends in jurisdiction and similar indications in domestic and foreign legislation

Both the system’s surrounding environment (external) and the company’s system (internal system) must be monitored. Ansoff also established that this process is a typical team task that involves creative techniques (e. g. brainstorming or scenario analysis) and requires an organised and formal approach. He also highlighted the fact that these changes pose risks as well as opportunities. Or, in the words of Max Frisch, Swiss playwright and novelist: “A crisis is a productive state. You simply have to get rid of its aftertaste of catastrophe.”

Black Swan events and risk management

In light of recent turbulences, universities have once again taken a closer look at ways to manage the unimaginable – i. e. managing the risks of Black Swan events – because traditional risk management quickly reaches its limits in the face of the unimaginable.
Harvard strategy professor Robert S. Kaplan discussed how one could even grasp the unimaginable. In doing so, Robert Kaplan identified three human traits as obstacles:

  • Lack of experience in dealing with and addressing seemingly absurd situations. He recommends inviting scriptwriters to brainstorming sessions.
  • Discarding one’s opinions and stereotypes which have trapped creative thought, and
  • Standing up to peer pressure and those claiming to be “reasonable“ – as one is quickly branded as being paranoid if one wants to safeguard oneself against the highly unlikely

Kaplan therefore suggests two organisational alternatives:

  • Designate a Chief Worry Officer (CWO) to keep his ears to the ground to detect any anomalies and highly unlikely Black Swan events at an early stage.
  • Set up a non-hierarchical detection and reporting system that is easily accessible by all employees. This must ensure that employees can immediately report their alarming concerns without fearing sanctions (call it a whistle blower system for Black Swans if you like).

To sum up: The more we are surprised and affected by new and unexpected threats, the more innovative, creative, and unusual the methods we develop must be to identify and assess these risks. Or, as Albert Einstein so aptly put it: “I’m more interested in the future than in the past, because the future is where I intend to live.”
Ansoff, I. ”Managing Surprise and Discontinuity …“ in Schmalenbachs Zeitschrift für betriebswirtschaftliche Forschung (ZfbF) 28 (1976), page 129 ff
Kaplan, R. Harvard Business Review 2020/11

christian oppl

Christian Oppl

Dean GrECo Academy

T +43 5 04 04 260

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The Dynamics of Multiple Crises Drive Our Group’s Risk Management Forward

ENGEL Produktion St. Valentin

Max Pernsteiner, Vice President Global Purchasing & Supply Chain at ENGEL Austria GmbH, spoke with Johannes Vogl, General Manager at GrECo Risk Engineering GmbH, about supply chains and their risks.

Vogl: Which role does supply chain management play nowadays in a global business like ENGEL Group? Are you able to keep your supply chains up and running despite the current situation? Which role does pricing play in procurement?

Pernsteiner: To cut a long story short, yes, we managed to keep our delivery promises. That has always been our top priority. And, prices continue to play a role in procurement – to a possible extent. We produce injection moulding machines which are used in the manufacture of plastics parts and components as well as products for daily use. We are market leaders in Europe and the USA for machines with more than 1000 to clamping force and are active all over the world. We have nine production plants in Europe, Asia and North America as well as subsidiaries and representatives in over 85 countries. Our procurement is centrally organised, which means that all strategic decisions are made at our headquarters in Schwertberg, Austria. My team and I are working in tandem with our international offices in Asia, Turkey and Mexico to ensure an optimal service in these supplier markets.
Sales continue to do well, which means we need smooth supply chains. Our advantage is the energy efficiency of our machines. Our customers have stepped up replacement investments to save more energy and operate sustainably. As injection moulding makes up about 25% of the production costs, our machines can reduce this proportion by about 30%. That is why both delivery capability and delivery reliability are key factors for our business. 
Vogl: How does ENGEL identify risks in the existing supply chain?

Pernsteiner: We conduct supplier assessments and hold supplier performance meetings for our main suppliers every year. Besides the hard facts, we also look at all other relevant factors, such as quality, technology, logistics, procurement as well as customer service. We evaluate the performance, document deviations from the “mean value”, the “best of” of our suppliers as well as those concerning the “commodity”. For us, transparency is not a lip service but part of our everyday reality. Of course, we communicate the results of our assessments with our suppliers and show them where there is room for improvement.
During our performance review meetings with our suppliers, we jointly agree on the measures that will be binding for the next year. At ENGEL, risk management is at the top of the agenda, which is why it also defines the way how we collaborate with our suppliers.
Vogl: How do you select new suppliers?

Pernsteiner: We differentiate between procurement parts and engineering parts. We select suppliers for procurement parts via a market enquiry. Suppliers for development parts provide components, such as control units which have been defined in year-long development processes. Following a concept competition and a strict selection process, we jointly carry out further engineering work. When it comes to these types of components, we cannot simply change from one supplier to another, which is why we carefully select our engineering suppliers. However, including sub-suppliers in the engineering phase is currently difficult. We have therefore adopted a dual and multiple supplier strategy with global diversification almost everywhere to protect ourselves against supply chain risks and we try to follow the same strategy for engineering parts. We know that this may come to an extra cost. It has, however, paid off during the crisis. We are consciously spending more money to secure our supply chains and maintain customer promises. That is why we also buy semiconductor chips from the secondary market.
A diversified procurement strategy via several continents usually comes with a cost advantage as well. An example is the sheet metal we purchase in China: Despite high transport costs and tariffs, buying sheet metal from China is sometimes cheaper than buying it in Europe. 
Vogl: Which methods to you use to evaluate suppliers?

Pernsteiner: We conduct on-site assessments to evaluate quality capabilities – so-called Rapid Plant Assessments (RPA) – irrespective of the location of our suppliers. It is a simple and effective method that was developed in 2007. Only a few pages are needed to show 9 topics for the on-site inspection. They range from maintenance and service, order and cleanliness, parts and logistics, material and process flow to quality management, governance and compliance criteria. Nowadays, our assessments also include ESG criteria, such as environment and humane working conditions. The result of the RPA (based on a traffic light system) determines whether the supplier receives an unrestricted release for quotation requests and nominations (green) or whether improvements must be made (yellow). In case of a lack of stability or a supplier reorganisation, the supplier does not receive any requests for quotation (red).
Our RPA approach has been successfully used, has increased quality, and has reduced risks. It features 5 characteristics:

  • It is simple to use and delivers fast and effective results.
  • Pictures are used for visual assessment and comprehensible documentation.
  • Evaluation is done according to a +/- system with no percentages.
  • The result is an assessment of the supplier regarding quality capabilities.
  • It can and will be applied for assessing sub-suppliers as well.

Vogl: Does this also mean that the multiple crises have improved the maturity level of ENGEL’s risk management, and especially that of its supply chain management?

Pernsteiner: We have been well positioned for years and have implemented a group-wide enterprise risk management system. But, yes, the dynamics of the multiple crises somewhat drive our group’s risk management forward. Already back in January 2020, before the first Covid pandemic lockdown, we set up a task force. Today, this task force is permanently active in anticipating changes in the risk landscape and helps us to flexibly adjust to changes in the market.
As part of our strategic focus, we are setting up our digitally networked production with facilities in Austria, Asia and the US and are using our global data base with matching numbers, key figures, and standards. Our production takes place where quality, time and costs are best met. The availability of materials, punitive tariffs, transport routes and costs, our competitive advantage, and the availability of skilled labour are some of the factors we consider as well

About Max Pernsteiner:
Vice President Global Supply Chain ENGEL Austria GmbH

  • Graduated in business informatics at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz
  • Extensive experience in procurement and supplier networks in the automotive industry
  • Successful localisation of (sub)assemblies and finished products in best-cost countries
  • Responsible for ENGEL’s global production network, supply chain and procurement since 2018
  • Volunteers in supporting disadvantaged children and families

About ENGEL:

ENGEL is one of the leading manufacturers of plastic injection moulding machines. The Group today provides all technology modules for plastics processing from a single source: injection moulding machines for thermoplastics, elastomers, and automation, including individual components which are equally competitive and successful on the market. With nine production plants in Europe, North America, and Asia (China, Korea) as well as subsidiaries and representatives in over 85 countries, ENGEL provides customers all over the world with optimal support, new technologies and cutting-edge production plants and is a driving force for their competitiveness and success.

Krystle Lippert

Max Pernsteiner

Vice President Global Supply Chain
ENGEL Austria GmbH

Michael Brunner

Johannes Vogl

General Manager GrECo Risk Engineering

T +43 5 04 04 – 160

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Supply Chain Managers as Crisis Managers

Supply Chain Managers as Crisis Managers

In the last two years, supply chains were exposed to unforeseen risks. The impact of the pandemic, Evergiven’s blockade of the Suez Canal, or the recent disruptions as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, to name a few. What else must we prepare for?

We live in turbulent times, and our world is changing. While change is important and a good thing, we are now facing a whole new dimension and new dynamics of change. Companies are challenged to find ways to manage these dynamics and their impact.

Globalisation is undergoing a reorganisation

In Europe, we rely on globalisation. Europe is the world’s largest exporter. It has brought us prosperity. Our value and supply chains also rely heavily on countries in the global South. They are our raw material suppliers. They are not only rich in raw materials, minerals and metals, they also offer the advantage of low costs of energy and labour. The ability to collaborate on a global scale – and tackle systemic risks, such as climate change – is thus a most decisive factor.
The big nations in the South, such as India, are gaining in economic strength. India is an alternative to China and benefits from the current geopolitical tensions. Investments made by multinationals in India are on the rise, and analysts are already predicting a decade of strong economic growth. Naturally, developments like these come with risks and opportunities for us as well as our value and supply chains. Our task is to anticipate both risks and opportunities.
The same applies to the effects of geopolitical constellations, such as sanctions, import restrictions or changes in legal frameworks, e.g. the EU Supply Chain Act. More and more supply chain managers have to act now also crisis managers. Cost efficiency in procurement is becoming less important. Besides quality and delivery reliability, supply chain management increasingly addresses geographical, geopolitical and ESG criteria. These developments pose a particular challenge to the small and medium-sized business sector.

Delving into supply chains

In light of the above, it is essential to examine supply chains in two steps: first, one’s direct suppliers, and second, the risk potential of their suppliers. Analysing and evaluating one’s direct suppliers is often difficult enough. Taking the second step means delving into the supply chain. In doing so, at least one’s direct supplier must be sensitized and his supplier systems and audits be checked to identify any blank spots, make reliable risk assumptions, and develop coping strategies.
This can be a ”diversification strategy to avoid”, i.e. selecting new suppliers, seeking new markets and market opportunities, or using alternative technologies to reduce the dependence on a certain raw material. An essential feature is the step taken towards an acceptable risk, for example via a traditional risk transfer with respective insurance solutions, despite the insurability of systemic risks being limited. In terms of the supply chain, this means “security comes first, before insurance”. One should be aware of one’s acceptable risk and its evaluation. Similarly, one should also keep monitoring this risk on an ongoing basis. “Transparency” thus becomes a decisive success factor in supply chain management.

Systemic risks and black swans

Managing systemic risks and black swans in the supply chain means one must also answer the question of whether one can influence the potential danger. If the answer is “yes”, the route to take includes appropriate risk management, quality, safety and environmental management or a risk transfer using insurance management. If the answer is “no”, preventive measures are called for, including crisis management, emergency planning, business continuity management as well as resilience management to optimally prepare for unexpected and to date unknown events. Flexibility is thus a key success factor.

Michael Brunner

Johannes Vogl

General Manager GrECo Risk Engineering

T +43 5 04 04 – 160

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More Procurement & Logistics Resilience for Donau Chemie


Krystle Lippert, Strategic Sales Manager at GrECo in Austria, has spoken with Dr. Gerald Dums, Head of Purchase of Technical Equipment & Logistics at Donau Chemie AG about supply chain problems and procurement and logistics resilience.

The past years have shed light on the downsides of the very same globalization that has been responsible for stable economic growth for a long time. The consequences of recent negative events are disruptions in trade and supply chains, order backlogs, rising energy and transport costs, and more. Whether earlier events or most recent geopolitical developments, such as the war in Ukraine, nearshoring and so-called “glocalization” are now moving into our focus.

Lippert: Donau Chemie recognised the changing trend long before the pandemic and the supply chain problems that followed suit. Out groundbreaking works for a new plant in Pischelsdorf to expand the product portfolio already began in 2019. It is Europe’s first production plant for amidosulfonic acid. What brought about this decision and which role did short distances play for procurement and sales?

Dums: Short distances in procurement and sales and therefore proximity to customers are part and parcel of our corporate philosophy. Besides the quality and availability of our products, our customers really value our other pillars of success: our personal service, the short response and delivery times as well as our solid reliability.

Because of our customer proximity we knew that the European market cannot provide amidosulfonic acid and relies on Asia for deliveries. This triggered more research and eventually the erection of a new plant in Pischelsdorf. The ready availability of the raw materials and the perfect storage and distribution opportunity on site in Lower Austria positively impacted on the feasibility study.
Lippert: Since there are no similar plants in Europe for this core process, there must have been a huge influx of customers during the pandemic, especially since China still grapples with lockdowns. How important is procurement and logistics resilience for your customers?
Dums: During the feasibility study, we already received positive feedback from prospective European customers who signalled their keen interest in our idea to erect an amidosulfonic acid plant in Pischelsdorf. Increased flexibility due to shorter delivery times, more reliability and security of supply, no loss of quality due to long sea transport and rapid availability have become increasingly important for our customers, over and above a high product quality and more attention being paid to ecological aspects.

Furthermore, an additional European supplier also increases the procurement and logistics resilience of customers. The recent lockdowns showed the negative impact in a most dramatic way. Within days, goods were no longer available, means of transport became a scarce commodity, container vessels jammed harbours, and transport routes were closed. Customers desperately searched for goods and alternative transport facilities, at times to no avail.
Within weeks, the prices for the “white powder” skyrocketed. Building up new procurement and logistics resilience became the order of the day. The obvious dependence on producers and logistical flows supported our decision to plan and erect Europe’s only amidosulfonic acid plant in Austria.
Lippert: What is your experience with international competitors from Asia? How do your customers rate short-term availability vs. price?
Dums: The pandemic and the dispute between Russia and Ukraine have shown that the global flow of goods can quickly come to a halt, causing existential crises among customers. In the medium term, such crises will continue to have a significant impact on our world economy and dictate prices. That is why customers have shifted their focus on short delivery distances and a more stable (European) framework. We have used our strength as a local producer to our advantage and continued to provide our customers with important industrial chemicals despite tough conditions. Of course, product prices play an important role but reliable quality, supply security, flexibility, and short delivery distances have become crucial and decisive factors for customers. 
Lippert: At the GrECo Risk Day we learned that logistics experts expect the complexity of supply chains to trigger a bullwhip effect. Do you share this view?
Dums: Yes, indeed. The global production and transport sector’s current complexity and dependency needs an optimal setting to work. Any change or deviation in the system will cause a ripple effect at all levels. The consequences have already become visible and may hold more surprises in store in the years to come. Planning, transparency, and the implementation of resilient systems coupled with forward-looking management qualities will certainly be helpful.
Lippert: If we consider that globalisation and the search for increasingly cheaper alternatives was placed higher on the agenda than local added value and short delivery distances, do you think this behaviour is a conscious decision made by customers or is it rather driven by politics?
Dums: The principles of a free market economy and globalisation have undoubtedly contributed to the wellbeing of our society. It has its merits and still applies. However, in my opinion, a critical evaluation and an adaptation to solve the global existential survival crisis – and thus protect our planet – are desirable and necessary. Political decision makers are key in determining the course for future economic areas and the habitat we live in. The creation of long-term sustainable wealth must be our common top priority. The restructure of economic areas, transport routes and supply chains can contribute a lot in this regard. Our project for a new amidosulfonic acid plant serves as a prime example.


Donau Chemie plant in Brückl, Carinthia

Lippert: Considering Europe’s energy crisis, does Donau Chemie also plan to erect new plants at new locations, and is Europe still an attractive manufacturing market?
Dums: Donau Chemie relies on organic growth. Over and above that, we are evaluating possibilities to expand our portfolio – like we did when we decided to bring the amidosulfonic acid production back to Europe – and tap into new markets. Alone in the last two years, we invested about EUR 35 million in our plant in Brückl in Carinthia. We erected a new distribution warehouse and filling facility, a new synthesis with heat extraction as well as a salt treatment facility for solar-dried sea salt.Container ship crews – mostly Asian – were no longer allowed to board or leave a vessel. Container ports came to a standstill, and the entire cycle of transporting and shipping goods was bogged down – until today.
Lockdowns which blocked the global economy ensued. As the restart did not take place simultaneously, the world economy struggled to restore its rhythm. Add to that the war, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While Ukraine has become the main supplier of raw materials and intermediate goods for many industry sectors, the Western world saw itself forced to act by imposing sanctions on Russia.

Sanctions, not only harm Russia’s economy in the medium and long term but which negatively impact the energy supply chains of the Western world in the short term.

About Donau Chemie:

The Viennese based company counts among the largest in the chemical sector. It produces and distributes base chemicals such as clorine, sodium hydroxide solution, hydrochloric acid or calcium carbide, manufactures application-specific compounds, and produces and distributes activated carbons. Donau Chemie products are mostly found in consumer goods in the field of cosmetics, household and technology.

Dr. Gerald Dums

Leitung technischer Einkauf und Logistik Donau Chemie AG

Krystle Lippert

Krystle Lippert

Strategic Sales Manager GrECo International AG

T +43 664 962 40 37

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Sustainability Reporting – is it Fact or Fake?

Sustainability Reporting - Fact or Fake

In recent years, companies have increasingly been publishing ESG reports and providing interested readers with insights into their strategies, objectives and measures. If one compares such reports, it is noticeable that there is no uniform procedure for preparing the report and there is often no information on the data basis and the standards applied.

Thus, some readers of such reports probably also ask themselves whether there are any regulations for this or whether the data have been checked in any way.

Status quo in recent years

In Austria, for example, only large corporations are currently required to publish a non-financial statement in the management report. The requirements for the content (regulated in the so-called NaDiVeG) are very general and include, in addition to a general description of business activities, the topics of the environment, social issues, employee concerns, respect for human rights and the fight against corruption. The most important non-financial performance indicators have to be reported. The Supervisory Board and the members of the Board of Management are responsible for reviewing this data; the auditor merely confirms the existence of the report. For the type of data determination and the scope of reporting, reference is made to various frameworks, such as the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), but there is no obligation to apply them.
Another type of report are the so-called environmental statements. These are prepared by companies that participate in the EU’s voluntary EMAS (Eco Management and Audit Scheme) system. These reports usually focus on the topic of environmental protection and are checked and verified by so-called environmental auditors according to specified procedures and contents.
Some companies also publish information on their greenhouse gas emissions, e.g., related to the product or the site. This data is often – though not always – verified by independent third parties. This can be recognized by the reader of this information by the fact that there is an “assurance statement” in the report in which the verifier confirms that the data has been determined in accordance with a standard (e.g., ISO 14064) as well as correctly.

Uniform EU regulation from 2024

The new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) will set new standards in the European Union from 2024. Not only will the scope of application be gradually extended from large corporations to small companies, but also.

  • the scope of the report is specified in more detail,
  • a uniform digital reporting format is introduced, and
  • an obligation to have the reports audited by external third parties.

Standards for the type of data to be reported and the collection are also to be defined by the EU in the course of 2023.


Not all sustainability reports are the same – source information and audit status are currently not easy to identify, there is a lack of uniform regulations – there are therefore major qualitative differences in terms of professionalism and orientation. More transparency can be expected in the future.
GREG’s experts will be happy to support you in designing and optimising your sustainability report and the associated data management.

Sabine Bradac

Sabine Bradac

Risk Consultant GrECo Risk Engineering

T +43 50404 896

Michael Brunner

Johannes Vogl

General Manager GrECo Risk Engineering

T +43 5 04 04 – 160

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Insurance Against Terrorism & Political Violence

Insurance Against Terrorism & Political Violence

9/11, the Madrid train bombings, the attack at the Manchester Arena or the London Tube bombings: Modern-day terrorism has many faces and continues to evolve. Despite that, it was only after Russia invaded Ukraine that the demand for insurance against political risks and violence significantly increased.

Terrorist attacks, strikes, violent protests against social evils and other political unrests can cost lives and directly or indirectly impact businesses as well. While insurance policies cannot prevent human suffering, they can help companies offset material damages, facilitate reconstruction, and get back to business as usual. An insurance policy reduces financial losses incurred due to business interruptions, it minimizes rental losses or even a loss of reputation. 
However, the insurance possibilities against terrorism and political violence have not yet reached companies in Europe. These insurances are still regarded as providing niche coverage only, even though banks and investors increasingly ask for this coverage. Despite major international events, such as 9/11 or the terrorist attacks in large European cities, neither the demand nor prices have increased on international markets for protection against political risks. 
This changed gradually only a few days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. The demand for Political Risk & Violence Coverage has increased. Companies now want to be on the safe side and are thus willing to accept higher costs for insurance premiums. At the same time, the war has caused the coverage market to shrink. The good news is: It has remained largely intact. 

Possible Risk Exposure

Critical infrastructure such as energy and communication are typical high-risk targets for terrorist attacks. Similarly, industrial plants, commercial properties, tourism or health facilities have also been targeted. With globally connected national economies, their supply and value chains as well as background infrastructure, the scope of possible damage has changed over the past decades. Unlike earlier on, the potential for major financial losses without material damage to companies has spiked. A “Non-Physical Damage Business Interruption“ (NPDBI) protects against financial losses due to terrorist attacks that happen in the vicinity of the company, yet cause no material damage at the company’s location.

Additionally, there is a risk of being held accountable and obligated to pay compensation for damages if safety and security measures are found inadequate for protecting the lives and property of others, such as employees. Special terrorism liability insurances safeguard companies against such potential liabilities.

Risk Transfer

Terrorism insurances are so-called “named perils”, providing coverage against known and named dangers. This also means that the insurance only provides coverage for the contractually agreed dangers or events that protect documented financial assets and gross profits. A risk analysis is thus a prerequisite to determine the coverage that best meets the company’s potential risks. Possible threat scenarios, their impact and potential for damage must be closely looked at.

The aim is to adequately safeguard the client against any impact in the event of damages. Our GrECo risk specialists develop tailored insurance solutions for their clients. In doing so, their task in providing such special concepts for coverage is to also define the limits of other, more conventional (all risk) material damage and business interruption insurances and avoid overlaps or insurable coverage gaps.

The Devil’s in the Details

It is impossible to insure clients against all potential risks or events. A world war is the major exclusion of insurance coverage, meaning that if war breaks out between at least two of the five global powers – USA, Russia, China, UK and France – insurance coverage shall not apply. Cyber terrorism is also excluded from this coverage.
The construction sector and construction project managers pay attention! Normally, construction policies do not protect against terrorism and political violence. Insurers do provide coverage against strikes, riots and civil commotion (SRCC clause) with sub-limits. This type of coverage is usually subject to a special right of termination on part of the insurer, a right that may be exercised at any time.

Zviadi Vardosanidze

General Manager GrECo Specialty

T +43 664 962 39 04

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