How Risks Can Turn Into Opportunities

Risks and Opportunities
February 23, 2016

Mention the word “risk” to executives and the immediate reaction is probably one of worry. Indeed, for many people, the word “risk” has a negative connotation and they prefer hearing the word as little as possible.

But seasoned professionals know that risk does not have to be negative. Of course risks should not be taken lightly, as consequences of risks can prevent a company from reaching its objectives. However, professionals who have dealt with risks throughout their careers know that risks can also create opportunities for improvement that can make a company more efficient, or provide a competitive edge.

The best way to show the relationship between risk and opportunity is through examples. In this post, we will give five examples that illustrate how best-in-class organizations can use risk as an opportunity to improve business performance.

Supply Chain Risks Create Opportunities to Cut Costs of Materials

The Risk: There is the potential presence of toxic ingredients in materials purchased from suppliers. These ingredients can be harmful to the environment, and to the health and safety of workers and consumers. This produces compliance risks regarding chemicals regulations and reputational risks.

The Opportunity: After inquiring with suppliers about purchased materials (either through questionnaires on on-site audits), a company may determine that about 30% of its suppliers are providing materials that could pose a risk. The company decides to no longer purchase materials from these suppliers, and instead purchases only from the remaining 70%. As a result, the company consolidates around a few suppliers and purchases more materials from each supplier. This presents opportunities for cost savings through bulk purchases or better pricing because of increased volumes.

Risks of Losing Consumers Create Opportunities to Increase Profits

The Risk: A company faces the risk of losing market share because consumers are increasingly demanding products made of mostly recycled materials, and that are fully recyclable.

The Opportunity: To mitigate the risk and preserve or increase market share, the company changes the product design and sources different materials. This allows the product to be more marketable to a growing base of consumers demanding green products. But before embarking on this change, the company does a market study and creates a business case showing that enough consumers would be willing to pay a 15% premium that would cover additional costs and include additional profit, thus improving the profit margin of the product line. Addressing the risk can provide an opportunity not only to preserve or increase market share, but also to increase profits by charging a premium that sustainability-conscious consumers are willing to pay.

Compliance Risks at Facilities Create Opportunities to Save Audit Time and Costs

The Risk: A company has multiple facilities in a country. Each of these facilities has compliance obligations, thus creating risks of non-compliance at each individual facility.

The Opportunity: To mitigate risks of non-compliance, each facility conducts . But this creates a situation where assessments of regulatory compliance are performed through disparate and duplicate processes across facilities. By implementing an automated and centralized audit management software, business processes can be improved and organizations can better monitor their regulatory compliance status. In addition, a single enterprise-wide solution for audit management allows the standardization of regulatory compliance assessment across the entire organization, which increases the productivity of auditors, thus reducing audit time and costs.

Risks of Knowledge Loss Create Opportunities for Knowledge Retention

The Risk: With a segment of baby boomers retiring or about to retire, there is a risk that a large amount of industry and company knowledge accumulated by such workers over the years could be lost by the organization. This could result in a loss of productivity and increase the risk of adverse events due to a loss of knowledge.

The Opportunity: Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset and must be preserved. To avoid losing knowledge, an organization decides to use an integrated enterprise platform for EHS and GRC as a repository of valuable knowledge gained over the years, and that can be critical in the future. Such knowledge includes industry best practices, work processes, impacts of regulations on the organization, lessons learned, etc. By having a mechanism in place to capture and retain knowledge, a company protects its productivity and operational efficiency from losses of knowledgeable employees due to turnovers, market downturns, budget cuts or retirements.

Reputational Risks From Social Media Create Opportunities to Foresee Issues

The Risk: Social media increases reputational risks because the velocity (or speed) at which issues impact reputation is greater than before.

The Opportunity: Chuck Saia, CRO at Deloitte, stresses that social media can also present an opportunity. For example, through social media, a company can get an understanding of what its competitors are dealing with as it plays out in social media, as well as a real-time view into how stakeholders are reacting to such issues. In turn, an organization can use that understanding to help get in front of potential emerging risk issues that otherwise it would not have had time to get in front of, according to Saia. Thus a company can gain insight and prevent the type of reputational risks from social media affecting industry peers. In addition, because news spreads very quickly on social media, it can be used effectively to engage with stakeholders in a timely way if something happens, and to show a commitment to transparency.

In conclusion, the key takeaway is that best-in-class organizations do more than risk management. They also take time to analyze risks to determine if there are potential opportunities that the organization can benefit from, as a result of those risks.

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Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader