Leveraging 'People' Power of Sustainability
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Dr. Jayantee Mukherjee Saha
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While deciding on the theme for this issue, we thought it would be a good idea to ponder upon business risks in this interconnected world and as a civil society brainstorm on the multitude and complexity of the subject. Never, did we realise that we would come across the whole range of issues befitting the description- from an adventure film, a suspense thriller to a sci-fi movie.
I was recently discussing the theme with an industry veteran who says, “In our good old times perhaps risks were also simpler and predictable”. Within a few days of this discussion the world was hit by the infamous WannaCry “Ransomware”. This bizarre cyber-attack that infected over 300, 000 computers worldwide was beyond the veteran’s comprehension.
At the beginning of each year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) publishes 'The Global Risks Report' identifying the list of risks most likely to occur in the near future. The risks are listed under five broad categories namely Economic, Geopolitical, Environmental, Societal and Technological. Exhibit 1 displays the top five global risks in terms of likelihood that has been identified between 2015 and 2017.
As can be seen, over the years, environmental risks have posed to be of major concern. Managing climate change is like being in a race against time. Have we ever wondered the correlation between say climate change, shrinking and melting glaciers in the Himalayas and associated business risks? Let’s talk tea (the world’s most consumed beverage after water) and the Indian tea industry (one of the largest producers of teas in the world). One of the biggest challenges facing the tea industry today is erratic rainfall due to climate change-resulting in low yield and rising cost of production. For instance, in Darjeeling - which is at the foothills of the Himalayas and known worldwide for its ‘champagne of teas’, the month of March is the time when eight percent of the total harvesting is done. This year due to erratic rainfall the crop deficit for March 2017 was 75 percent as compared to the standard yield (BusinessLine, 2017).
Now coming back to Australia, climate extremes like heatwaves, bushfires, floods and other natural disasters have impacted businesses and communities alike. According to a recent statistics, when both tangible and intangible costs are included, it is estimated that the total economic cost of natural disasters in Australia in 2015 exceeded $ 9 billion or 0.6% of GDP and this is expected to double by 2030 (ABRDRSC, 2016). The images of Cyclone Yasi in Northern Queensland or Black Saturday in Victoria are still fresh.
On the other hand, in the current context, the heightened geopolitical risks of rising security concerns and terrorist threats are inflicting large-scale human and material damage. These shameless acts of terror be it in Nice or most recently in Manchester are only to be condemned.
Though in the last couple of years (i.e 2016 and 2017), economic risks like unemployment and underemployment have slided down the list, yet concerns for automation and robots taking human space is ripe. The WEF predicts, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence will destroy 5 million jobs by 2020 and will contribute to long-term structural unemployment. This in turn may weaken consumer spending and consumer confidence levels thus impacting the overall economy.
To briefly sum up, business risks in this inter-connected world may therefore look quite like as a recent media report say, “If you go outdoors you could get hit by lethal hurricanes, floods, tremors and terrorists. Stay inside huddled over your computer and you could lose your data and your identity” (Bloomberg, 2017). Or for that matter robot tapping shoulders while human capability questioned- a perfect scene from an adventure film, a suspense thriller or a sci-fi movie.
But, when most of these risks are human made can't humans also resolve these risks? I am sure that’s possible. Perhaps, only have to think a bit differently….