Climate change ranked as the number 13 risk faced by UK firms, with just 11% identifying it and extreme weather as one of their top five concerns
British businesses have loosened their grip on the climate emergency as they continue to battle the Covid-19 crisis, with many employers stating that their business is not exposed to any risks as a result of climate change, according to Aviva’s Risk Insights Report.
Commissioned by Aviva with YouGov, the research charts the top concerns on the minds of British employers, with Covid-19, Brexit, and business and supply chain interruption dominating the top three spots.
Climate change ranked as the number 13 risk faced by businesses, with just 11% identifying it and extreme weather events as one of their top five concerns.
While 89% of businesses believe they are resilient to business risks, less than half (47%) of all businesses said they regularly undertake health and safety risk assessments, fire risk assessments (33%) or business continuity planning (28%).
This is especially concerning, given that some assessments are required by law (eg health and safety, fire). Small businesses in particular are struggling to prepare: 42% of small businesses said they have not carried out any of the main risk management activities in the past 12 months.
Operating in the midst of a global pandemic has presented businesses with an ongoing series of challenges of a breadth and depth previously unknown. Looking to the future, 69% of businesses said the long-term impact of Covid-19 on their business will be negative. For 39% of businesses, lower growth is expected as a result. So it is not surprising that businesses said they are more “worried” about the impact of Covid-19 than any other risk in the research.
Business leaders were more than twice as likely to say that the impact of Brexit on their business has been negative rather than positive.
This outlook reflects the risks businesses face from legislative and regulatory changes, which was the second largest risk business leaders said they are exposed to, after public health events.
Businesses say they face a wide range of risks during a potentially bumpy period as the UK seeks to develop new trading relationships outside the EU. For example, supply chains that previously relied on the free movement of goods and services across the EU have had to be reviewed and revised.
Only 11% of businesses ranked climate change and extreme weather events as one of their top five risks. While current risks facing British businesses are pressing, they should not be the only risk management and prevention considerations taken by businesses.
More than one-in-three (36%) businesses said they were not exposed to any risks as a result of climate change. Businesses cannot ignore the very real risks associated with climate change and climate-related extreme weather events.
Those businesses that did recognise climate-related risks said they are most exposed to economic and market risks (29%) as a result of the climate emergency, followed by regulatory and legal changes (24%) and operational disruption (21%).
In response to the challenges of operating in the midst of a pandemic, nearly half (48%) of businesses said they increased their digital adoption of technology. They did so largely to reduce their cost base (28%) and diversify their operations (27%).
However, the migration online also poses a significant and growing risk, with more than one-in-four businesses (27%) – and one-in-three large corporates (36%) – listing the risk of cyber attacks as a top risk faced by their business.
The impact of a cyber attack can be crippling: 44% of businesses said they would face operational disruption in the event of a cyber attack; 42% said loss of data; and one-in-three said loss of customer confidence (33%), financial impact (33%) and loss of reputation (32%) would all stem from a cyber attack.
However, 20% of business leaders said they did not think they were exposed to any cyber risks, highlighting the need for greater awareness of cyber risks.
Nick Major, interim managing director, Commercial Insurance, Aviva, said, “Businesses have had to deal with a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the past year, and the agility and determination they have shown in response to the challenges they have faced has been extraordinary.
“The pandemic has underscored how increasingly interconnected and complex the risk landscape is; the importance of a strategic, proactive programme of risk management and prevention has never been clearer.
“Looking ahead, the challenge for businesses will be to juggle a multitude of pressing risk management priorities: managing the uncertainty of operating in a current pandemic, knock-on risks such as supply chain disruption, emerging risks such as cyber, while not forgetting fire and flood, and the evolving threat of climate change, which in the long-term pose some of the most disastrous risks to business. The ability to manage the immediate threat, but retain an eye on the evolving and longer-term risks is going to be critical for business.
“The explosion of homeworking and the move online through successive lockdowns has created an opportunity for cyber criminals; as our dependency on technology grows, so too must our emphasis on the prevention and protection from the increasing threat of cyber attacks. Cyber is now one of the biggest risks businesses face.
“British businesses are strong and resilient, and will emerge from the challenges of the current pandemic and Brexit. But evolving risks such as cyber and climate change remain the most significant long-term threats, not just for business, but for society. Failure to address the climate emergency now jeopardises our collective future, and UK businesses have a responsibility to act today to ensure a better tomorrow.”