July 14, 2024
Bright Ampadu Okyere

Increasing human activity poses a great threat to nature and the business ecosystem. Any form of environmental damage has the potential of causing massive disruption to businesses. Interestingly, corporate governance structures and practices, as well as the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Framework, have the key to minimizing and preventing any such unforeseen occurrence.

We should remember that any bad or unethical business practice can harm natural resources beyond repairs. In an attempt to cure this misfortune, Sustainability and Business Continuity Management (BCM) are well-tested modules that can be used to support organizations in their everyday decision-making, planning, and formulating business strategies.

As the term suggests, sustainability aims at helping to meet the challenges of the present without compromising future generations, while BCM offers a robust system to steer current uncertainties and guide businesses through market changes. The converging point is that both sustainability and BCM primarily have the same objective: to safeguard existing and future processes, procedures, and practices (PPPs) to continue to function even amid adversity.

The most recent and practical example is the disruption to data services (internet connectivity) as a result of undersea cable outages which affected Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, South Africa, and some other African countries. All four (4) undersea cables from Ghana to Europe through Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal were out of service. The damage disrupted internet services in the affected countries bringing a halt to almost all activities that rely on the internet.

Banks and other corporate organizations could not operate at full capacity. In some instances, financial operations and transactions were halted in some Banks. Commercial drivers who depend on the internet (Bolt, Yango, Uber), etc were badly affected even to the extent that ordering fast food was almost impossible.

Many organizations had to quickly activate “Crisis Management Plan” in their quest to stay afloat and provide some essential services to their numerous customers.  Organizations with a Business Continuity Plan had to quickly perform risk analysis, command center plans, response action plans (short-term and long-term), internal and external communication mechanisms, workforce allocation, logistics, training, and intermittent review plans to minimize the impact on business operations.

In a fascinating manner, “The International Organization for Standardization” has set several standards for both disciplines, i.e. ISO 26000 (Social Responsibility) and ISO 22301 (Business Continuity Management). These protocols have clearly defined clauses and rollout plans on how to effectively and efficiently implement these international best practices.

Customers all over the world are becoming more sophisticated each passing moment, they now prefer to engage organizations with clear principles on their level of environmental responsibility. Remarkably, The Bank of Ghana has clear guidelines termed; “Ghana Sustainable Banking Principles”, they are expected to lead various initiatives to take account of environmental considerations that financial institutions have to adhere to in addressing the needs of their customers. BCM has also been designed such that it assists in improving performance through enhanced and well-equipped response measures.

It is sad to note that, even though business executives and top management admit to the relevance of sustainability to their business practices, many organizations do not have any BCM instituted in their business strategy. Many organizations are not ISO certified, and even those who are certified, do not have trained and subject matter experts handling business continuity practices. Lack of support and appreciation from top management on both principles (sustainability and BCM) may be blamed for some of these gaps.

Lessons have been drawn from COVID-19 where emergency measures had to be adopted to ensure smooth flow of work during the global pandemic. Working-From-Home (WFH) has become the new normal and even up to date, some organizations have some of their employees working from home. The blueprint from COVID-19 should catalyze the institutionalization of sustainability and BCM principles and strategies. Ideally, it should now be much easier to get management’s attention and commitment on issues of sustainability and BCM.

Commitment from top management is the game changer and possibly the most crucial factor in gaining the required support for business sustainability. Again, ISO certification in both disciplines will position any organization as an employer of choice attracting top talents. An established sustainability and BCM culture attracts and increases client/customer base thus increasing market share and profit margins.

I have been part of a dedicated team working on the implementation of sustainability and BCM framework for a financial institution and I have personally observed that middle management is more likely to exhibit sustainability and BCM behaviors if they perceive corporate commitment from the C-suite. This is critical because middle management is usually the implementer of sustainability and BCM principles. This helps them feel more committed to their organization and more entrusting to their top management.

Both sustainability and BCM guidelines recommend that key figures among middle management are involved, such as process owners, to make sure the organization can establish a sound BCM culture. Portions of both sustainability and BCM principles place responsibilities on top management.

Hence, top management should be involved both in sustainability strategies and BCM by setting and clarifying objectives and expectations. Visible management participation in initiatives shows the importance of these activities and encourages constructive behavior at all levels.

 

Establishing a business unit purposely for the operationalization of BCM will be a good approach to handling the demands of the standards. It will identify, oversee, and implement strategies to address the risk of unexpected disruptions. A lot of possible scenarios must be created for critical business functions. Practically, this must lead to interfacing with other relevant stakeholders and business units both internal and external. In furtherance to this, it is required that policies and procedures must be designed to ensure compliance with these internationally approved standards.

 

The whole BCM architecture depends on whether or not an organization can function if there is any disaster or disruption in its service delivery. Organizations are susceptible to vulnerabilities and business owners and decision makers need to look for alternatives for all critical services to work offline in times of internet challenges and other disruptions. Top management should be interested in the continuous functionality of key areas like; human resources (workforce), IT systems, processes, procedures, practices (PPPs), and infrastructure. Indeed, a more resilient measure on disaster recovery and alternative sites must be identified and prepared for use in times of need.

 

There is an articulation of the contribution of top management based on four main points, which should facilitate the diffusion of best practices, whether it is for sustainability or BCM. These are the pillars:

 

  • The ability to acknowledge contradiction
  • The ability to value interconnections between different strategic domains
  • The capability to engage in and manage task conflict to avoid groupthink
  • The ability to intrinsically motivate middle managers.

 

This can be an interesting and useful benchmark for top management to understand how to maximize their efforts and measure the effectiveness of their actions. On a final note, it is worth mentioning that so far many more organizations keep signing up for sustainability and BCM principles.

Top Management has considerably expressed their commitment and how important these standards are for their businesses. However, more needs to be done to understand how to obtain their buy-in and the financial commitment that comes with adherence to these principles.

Finally, the world is evolving and we may not be able to predict when next a disaster or disruption will occur. We need to prepare to safeguard our human resources and investment in infrastructure and processes. As the saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry” should be the guiding principle.

Source: Bright Ampadu Okyere – Business Continuity Coordinator), Bank of Africa, Ghana and

Email: [email protected] [email protected]

Twitter: @BaOkyere

Facebook: Bright Ampadu Okyere (Sabaah)

LinkedIn: Bright Ampadu Okyere

Tel. #: 0244204664

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