Secretary-General António Guterres made this statement at the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th September 2022 in New York.

We are undergoing times of permanent change, which many refer to as systemic transformation or multiple crises strung together. This change takes place in different fields and segments. They, in turn, are interlinked at various levels. HORIZON’s risk-oriented approach aims to define and outline the key areas of change affecting your company. In doing so, we take a close look at the systemic influences of ecological, geopolitical, technological and social transformation on your company’s risk landscape.

The 4 Risk Changers

The 4 Risk Changers

These transformation processes are very dynamic, they are often interdependent and thus characterised as complex processes. They also result in systemic risks. Managing them requires much more than traditional methods of risk management.

In terms of risk management, we refer to these systemic risks as “risk changers” that directly affect companies and categorise them as follows:

  • “Environment in danger” for ecological,
  • “Beyond globalisation” for geopolitical,
  • “Digital transition” for technological and
  • “Social disruption” for social transformation.

HORIZON – “Risk Thought » Fast Forward” is our platform for so-called risk thought leadership. It is based on our vision to detect the impact of these risk changers at an early stage and introduce risk management solutions that boost our clients’ resilience.

How do the 4 Risk Changers affect companies?

Companies are exposed to various kinds of risks. At the same time, systemic transformation exacerbates existing risks and causes new risks to emerge. These primary risks have a direct bearing on companies.

 How do the 4 Risk Changers affect companies?

Primary risks – Transformation leads to direct exposure

Ecological risks
When we look at climate change, we refer to climate risks. They are apparent in form of a changed or an increased exposure to natural disasters, such as floods, storms, hail as well as heat, drought or a rising sea level. As far as companies are concerned, these risks can cause anything from material damages to disruptions of transport routes, in energy, or raw material supplies.
 
Geopolitical risks
Geopolitical change, characterised by an economic bloc having been established between the USA and China, has put free world trade to the test. It also shows, by looking at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, just how quickly a system conflict, which we thought had been settled between the democratic and autocratic world, can be reignited. All that, exacerbated by global events, like the Covid-19 pandemic, puts pressure on the availability of energy resources, disrupts supply chains and leads to a global wave of price hikes that challenge governments, businesses, and the civilian population alike.
 
Technological risks
Technological change has resulted in an over-dependence on data, software and IT infrastructure. All are targets of a rapid increase of cyber threats all over the world and are thus one of the biggest threats of the 21st century.
 
Social risks
The growing divide between rich and poor, the lack of equal opportunities regarding age, ethnic background and nationality, gender and gender identity, physical and mental abilities, religion and ideology, sexual orientation and identity as well as social backgrounds increases social tensions. The Club of Rome deems equality and justice as part of the ideal solution for a liveable future.

Companies cannot shirk their responsibility in this regard. For instance, social issues are becoming more and more important as we are facing an inevitable demographic change that has already resulted in a systemic shortages on the job market.
 
Correlation
The interdependency of these systemic risks is best demonstrated by the war in Ukraine: From a geopolitical point of view, it has led to an energy crisis. In terms of technology, it has led to an increasing number of cyber threats. On top of that, well-targeted campaigns are aimed at splitting society and disturbing social peace in our Western world. From an ecological perspective, however, there is hope that our efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can finally be carried through.
 
Systemic change – Primary and secondary risks

Systemic change - Primary and secondary risks

Secondary risks – Adaption creates new chances and challenges

Besides these primary transformation risks, which affect companies as “pure risks” from the outside, systemic change leads to secondary transformation risks that are “speculative”. They derive from companies’ adapted business models that were developed in response to the systemic change and comprise both risks and opportunities.
 
Ecological adaption
In the fight against climate change, many companies have decarbonised their processes or have developed sustainable products. Saving resources and taking advantage of new opportunities are key focal points. However, new products and processes lead to new risks that must be identified at an early stage.
 
Geopolitical adaption
As a result of the geopolitical change, companies had to explore new markets and new sources for raw materials and find new ways of attracting both customers and suppliers, while keeping a watchful eye on possible dangers. Although the currently rising energy prices still paint a different picture, supply chains can be shortened through nearshoring. This could very well result in a wave of reindustrialisation in Europe.  
 
Technological adaption
Technological change enables us to pursue totally new paths. While the automation and digitisation of value chains is gaining importance, the full potential of mergers, transparency, big data, and metadata remains to be exploited. Manufacturers of previously traditional products and services are becoming system providers, goods are being replaced by data, and machines by platforms.
 
Social adaption
In the past, humans used to be regarded as resources. Now, humans with all their resources take centre stage. The concept of Industry 5.0. does exactly that. It places the human being at the centre to promote and foster diversity, different talents, and activities. Many companies have already initiated a transformation process because employees nowadays attach more importance on meaningful work. They believe that they can make a difference when it comes to resilience and sustainability.

Beyond globalisation – Geopolitical transformation in the spotlight

The upcoming release of HORIZON will concentrate on the geopolitical transformation and therefore looks at all its challenges from various angles.
 
New political world order
Does the war in Ukraine show us the dramatic face of a new political world order and how does this conflict at the very centre of Eastern Europe disrupt our economic basis?
How will the global trend of bloc formation between democratic and autocratic countries influence companies’ global business activities in the future?
What is the risk of technology being abused as an instrument of power and how could this affect companies?
How will the increasing conflict between the USA and China influence global economic relations?

Energy crisis
Blackout and a cold winter – how can we prepare for a total outage?
Will the current shortage of natural resources ruin Europe’s industry or will an ambitious energy transition turn Europe into a role model for a green global economy?

Supply chain dilemma
Will the geopolitical transformation result in a new era of offshoring, or will regional supply chains and increasing investments in circular economy boost independence and resilience?
How will China´s rise continue – considering its growing regional influence along the new silk road – and what will be the effect of its strategy of isolation as a result of its zero-tolerance pandemic policy?
Is the conflict over Taiwan’s independence a ticking time bomb for the global economy?

Loss of wealth
Will double-digit price increases lead to a decreased standard of living over the long term?
Does high inflation increase the risk of social riots in Europe?
How do these circumstances influence people’s work-life balance and their work attitude?
What does a new wave of migration mean for European companies and their DE&I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) agenda?
 
It is indeed a difficult and challenging situation that raises many most pressing questions. We need to discuss them, their impact on the transformation of the risk landscape as well as possible solution scenarios.
 
Stay tuned!

Georg Winter

CEO

T +43 664 962 39 06

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