Guest Column | June 22, 2020

History Offers Key Lesson For Post-Pandemic Business Recovery

By Neil Coole, Director of Americas Food and Retail Supply Chain, BSI

Disaster Recovery Backup Plan

There is no doubt COVID-19 has upturned the world as we know it, forcing businesses and executives to suddenly adjust to a new way of operating and re-evaluating their business plans. According to a recent BSI survey of nearly 800 business leaders, even though 2 out of 3 of those surveyed said they had a continuity plan, 45 percent of respondents stated they were looking at supply chain alternatives, underscoring that their continuity plan did not have all the right measures in place.

While much focus and attention have rightly been oriented on simply meeting the business challenges of the day, it’s precisely during this period of disruption and disorientation when business leaders and executives should review the current processes and standards which guide their business to determine where changes should be made.

There are many tested business continuity management systems and standards that have helped businesses survive past disruptions and streamline processes across functions. For example, the retail, distribution, and home delivery industries have all had to realize the importance of abiding by industrial hygiene best practices as their workers have emerged on the front lines in fighting this pandemic. Many of the best practices these industries are now abiding by originally emerged as an international standard, such as ISO 22301, which is the internationally adopted standard for business continuity management, which began life with BSI as PAS 56 in 2003, then adopted into BS 25999 parts 1 and 2, and then was adopted by ISO in 2012.

While many employers readily abided by the best practice of providing personal protective equipment for employee use while working, those that did not were met with wide-scale protests such as “sick-outs” and other types of rallies. As the focus on protecting worker safety increases, those businesses that readily abide by best practices will set themselves apart from those who do not.

In the review and evaluation process, remember that you are not alone – distilled wisdom from industry experts has been captured to assist businesses of all sizes—from small, family-owned businesses to Fortune 100 companies—and is available to guide and support you during this process. While the COVID-19 pandemic is unique in its challenges, it does not have to be unique in its effects on your business.

BSI, the organization I work for, was founded in 1901, and since then the world has faced and beaten five previous global pandemics: the Sixth Cholera Pandemic from 1910 to 1911, the 1918 global influenza pandemic, the Asian flu pandemic from 1956 to 1958, the ‘Hong Kong’ flu pandemic in 1968, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic from 2005 to 2012. From these pandemics, history can teach us a valuable lesson: resilience.

In the same recent BSI survey, more than 75 percent of respondents reported being certified in an ISO standard. A primary benefit of certification is resilience, preparing businesses to emerge much stronger after the impact of a large-scale disaster has subsided, compared to those who are not certified.

For example, when the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011 it impacted both the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant. While many know about the fallout with the Daiichi power plant, almost no one has heard of the Daini Nuclear Power, which was an identical site only 10km away. When disaster struck, the Daini site did not go critical or into meltdown. Instead, the Daini leadership team and site personnel were prepared, with tried-and-tested business continuity plans in place, allowing personnel to respond in a manner that prevented their site from going critical. Their plan provided operational clarity, enabling everyone from senior leadership down to operate as a collective team and minimize overall business impact.

When crises arise, having systems and standards in place to guide your organization provides stability and creates individual and corporate peace of mind. Utilizing international systems and standards provide a way to make practices safer and create products and processes that are easier to use, ultimately providing support as businesses recover, rebuild, and work to insulate themselves from future disruptions.