What we’re watching this week: 6/14/21

This week, we’re watching the US–China bill work its way through the House, renewed hope for a bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the reemergence of common colds and the flu as society reopens and people shed their masks. Here’s what else is on our minds.

Don’t call it a comeback

In the United States, the return to a prepandemic normal continues at a breakneck pace that would have been inconceivable even three to four months ago. Perhaps one of the most visible signs is seeing shuttered industries prepare to emerge from hibernation. The Great White Way is poised to roar back at full power. Summer music festivals are back, and bands have raced to resume their touring. (Some even feel free as a bird now; how ‘bout you?) Perhaps most surprising: many industries that received last rites early in the pandemic, such as the cruise ship industry, are eagerly plotting their return. This push raises the sticky question of what changes and safety protocols, if any, will endure once society gets the all-clear.

Companies weighing in on these issues should keep a few lessons in mind:

• Surveys and analysis, such as this one from Deloitte, can offer valuable snapshots of rapidly shifting consumer preferences.

Accenture suggests assessing risks in a deliberate fashion, which can do far more to demonstrate the sophistication of your thinking than a prediction that could be proved wrong next month.

• Ground these discussions not with news hooks but a focus on the fundamentals by remembering the pull and power of habit that affects all of us.

The pile-on effect

It’s only been a matter of weeks since the private sector’s vocal resistance to Georgia’s enactment of new voter restrictions was lauded by some and met with calls for boycotts by others. Yet, since then, more than a dozen states followed suit, and the silence has been deafening. This is similar to what scientists call a “pile-on” effect, in which something is viewed negatively, the media picks up on it, and then others have to “pile on” their take so as to not be viewed as being on the wrong side of things. Then the media cycle calms down and people (and companies) largely go on about their business. This phenomenon played out in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the resulting protests.

With Pride Month under way, how can companies promote their values and demonstrate their genuine commitment to basic rights for all—without seeming just to pile on?

• A number of companies have committed to making progress by reframing the conversation with new research and detailed analysis.

• Walmart takes a more ambitious approach to ESG by holding partners and vendors to the standards they wish to promote.

• History has a long memory, so be on the right side of it. Companies should take a lesson from John Marshall Harlan, Supreme Court justice in the late 1800s and a staunch opponent of racial segregation.

Risky business

A recent headline-grabber was the ransomware attacks on Colonial Energy and meat producer JBS, in which the companies paid $4.3 million and $11 million, respectively. Meanwhile, continued drought in the West means that wildfire season will start earlier and could be more severe this year. As we noted last week, hurricane season is also predicted to be more active than normal. Companies have begun calling employees back to the office, putting worker safety and wellbeing back into the spotlight. The common thread for all of these issues: the mercurial nature of risk management. Rather than using the latest disaster to call attention to an issue—there will always be another one—the most sophisticated companies create content that highlights the importance of enterprise risk management. The complexity of risk also means thought leadership must explore trade-offs, with an emphasis on supporting technology, processes, and governance.

Aon offers a take on the need to reprioritize risk in the postpandemic landscape.

• Deloitte details how elevating risk in the form of an integrated risk-management function can support business growth.

• With so many interlocking variables in risk management, EY points out how analytics can support risk-enabled performance management.

Scott Leff

Scott is the founder of LEFF. He’s spent his career helping executives and subject matter experts tell their story in a compelling way. In the process, he’s had the opportunity to work with C-suite executives, politicians, academics, and Olympians, not to mention dozens of talented writers, editors, and designers in the business world. Scott developed the concept of “lean content creation” as a cost-effective way to support comprehensive, integrated communication strategies.

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