Which of these pose a serious risk of business disruption? Water? Falling debris? Overgrown trees?

 Water caused the biggest industrial disaster in history. In 1984, water entered a chemical containment tank at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India triggering a toxic gas leak that killed thousands.

Debris on a rail track was investigated as a possible cause of the 2001 CSX train derailment in Baltimore’s Howard Street Tunnel, creating a five-day-long fire, releasing toxic chemicals, and severing fibre optic cables.

Overgrown trees were the culprits in the 2003 Northeast Blackout when a 9300 square mile area lost power, causing cascading disruption across multiple infrastructure and business systems. More than 500 power-generating units shut down, drinking water was lost and sewage systems failed, rail and air travel were disrupted, and factories closed. Cellular, cable, and internet systems were disrupted. Truck traffic backed up because border check systems went down.

 Today’s complex and unpredictable risk environment

Corporate leaders have long paid close attention to financial risk, and the recent financial meltdown has reinforced this focus. However, today’s rampant, unpredictable and high-stakes operational risk environment is a game-changer and critical dimension of the corporate risk landscape.

Terrorists have commercial assets in their sights. Between 2002 and 2011, there have been 18 major attacks on hotels worldwide, and more than 60 attacks at shopping centres and malls. Terrorists have plotted against aviation, financial institutions, gas infrastructure, reservoirs and large public venues.

Jan-Mar 2014 Issue

Council on Competitiveness