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Guide for non-execs on Operational Resilience

Even before covid, let alone after, business faces complex interdependencies, and needs to prepare – whether it’s for cancelled airline flights, storms causing floods or power outages, or problems in supply chains.

It is important that Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) can contribute fully to the resilience of their organisations by understanding what specific measures are being undertaken to ensure preparedness, long-term resilience, and sustainability. This is equally true for the public, private and voluntary sectors. It is crucial, therefore, that NEDs can challenge executive decision-making on resilience and ensure emerging threats, risks and opportunities are understood. So says the business group Resilience First, which with Pool Re, the UK official counter-terror re-insurance scheme, has published a second edition of a digital Guide for Non-Executive Directors on Operational Resilience.

This latest edition is a practical resource, providing challenges and principles with case studies. It features new chapters on: Diversity and inclusion, ESG, Cyber security and Terrorism. It delivers essential information to assist with Board discussions on resilience broken down into People, Place, Preparation, Process and Performance.

Simon Collins, Chair of Board, Resilience First, says: “Non-Exec Directors support executives in businesses and other organisations through their experience, insights, challenge and counsel. Recent events, including the pandemic, inflationary pressures and labour shortages, have all shown the importance of planning business resilience. This guide provides Non-Exec Directors with tools, anecdotes and food for thought to help them be effective in ensuring that businesses are truly resilient.”

Ed Butler CBE DSO, Chief Resilience Officer, Pool Re, says: “I know how important the role of the Board is in ensuring that an organisation has a prosperous future – and more importantly – a sustainable and resilient one. This Guide acts as a ‘critical friend’ to Non-Executives whose independence and ability to ‘stand back’ provides real value-add to the Executive’s decision-making.”

Emma Arnold, Director – ESG and Climate Resilience – Crisis and Security Consulting, at the consultancy Control Risks, says: “NEDs are uniquely positioned to use their external ‘vision’ and breadth of expertise to challenge constructively key decisions and ensure emerging threats, risks and opportunities are understood. Whilst NEDs may not necessarily get involved in the details of the process, they have an opportunity to use their wealth of experience to challenge the outcomes.”

Emma Shipp, Consultant, Russell-Cooke:

“The oversight, challenge and support that NEDs bring to a business is more important than ever with pressures coming from all sides in today’s commercial landscape. A NED can bring a different voice to the board and a wealth of experience which makes them invaluable at spotting opportunities as well as mitigating risks. Resilience will be a key concern for NEDs who take the long view of the viability of a business and, where business premises are concerned, will be keen to ensure flexibility is baked in to the greatest extent possible.”

And Fiona Hathorn, Co-founder and CEO, Women on Boards UK says: “Thinking about the best way to manage risk has moved on considerably in recent years from a static, and often negative, approach to a more positive, evolving one. The diversity of thought around the board table shapes how an organisation reacts to emerging risks, so getting the right mix of board members is key to optimising performance. This new Operational Resilience Guide, specifically for NEDs, is a must-read as it brings together multiple factors that truly build resilience – including diversity.”

In summary: what can inhibit or threaten resilience? It is easy to get distracted by the here and now while overlooking the global challenges and future threats (Covid-19, climate change, cyber-attacks, terrorism and conflicts). Some key aspects of building resilience are: developing a strong organisational culture based on diversity of thinking and background; evaluating digital footprint and conducting simulation exercises to enhance cyber security; making sure there is sufficient granularity of data which covers all of the organisation and being careful not to commit to ESG pledges without getting the basics correct first.

Operational Resilience – A Guide for Non-Executive Directors is available through an online portal;


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