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Top 5 macro security risks encountered by European businesses in 2023

Securitas’ Risk Intelligence Center (RIC) has unveiled the top security risks that European businesses faced in 2023, underscoring the escalating importance of risk intelligence and integrated solutions.

The past year unfolded as a tapestry of unforeseeable events, leaving a substantial impact on businesses across Europe, including those in Ireland. From armed conflicts and terrorist incidents to inflationary pressures and extreme weather events, businesses confronted diverse risks that necessitated adaptability and resilience.

As we commence the new year, it is crucial to delve into the threats and challenges that affected businesses in Europe. By doing so, we can extract insights into the evolving nature of these threats and comprehend how security and risk intelligence can proactively fortify a business's defenses.

RIC delivers real-time, actionable intelligence to organizations worldwide, focusing on the global security and threat landscape. It has identified the top five macro risks that were prominent in 2023, gauged by both frequency and significant client concerns. These include, without a specific order:

  • Climate change and natural disasters
  • Backlash against ESG initiatives
  • Activism
  • Terrorism and extremism
  • Espionage

Climate change and natural disasters

Europe experienced a series of climate-related events, from droughts and heatwaves to earthquakes and floods. These incidents disrupted supply chains, transportation networks, and energy production, intensifying pressure on businesses to reduce carbon emissions.

A report from Maynooth University in 2022 revealed that Ireland is experiencing 100~ times more extreme weather events due to the ongoing climate crisis.

Rising sea levels, influenced by high tides and extreme weather events are reported to contribute to coastal flooding which is expected to impact 70,000~ homes and businesses across Ireland in the coming years, posing significant risks to operations and likely ensuing substantial financial costs.

Backlash against ESG initiatives

In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on ESG (environmental, social, and governance) practices among businesses, driven by increasing public awareness of climate change, social inequalities, and corporate accountability. However, as companies strive to improve their ESG performance, they are increasingly facing scrutiny from activist groups who are critical of their policies or actions. These activists are employing a variety of tactics, including online campaigns, disinformation, boycotts, and nonviolent direct action protests, to exert pressure on businesses to adopt more sustainable and responsible practices.

Assessing the risks

In today's ESG-conscious world, businesses cannot afford to ignore the potential impact of activist pressure. By understanding the risks associated with ESG activism, companies can develop strategies to navigate this evolving landscape and build a sustainable and responsible reputation. Securitas Risk Intelligence Center (RIC) service can help you identify and address these risks proactively.

Activism 

Amidst a cost-of-living crisis, there was a significant rise in public unrest and industrial action. Climate activists spearheaded protests against industries they deemed as environmental offenders, leading to a surge in tensions. Secondary targets, such as the global banking sector, became unwittingly embroiled in the conflict, experiencing property damage and staff intimidation. The events of the year highlighted the interconnected dynamics of public sentiment, business operations, and security risks. 

The cost-of-living crisis

The soaring cost of living has hit people hard, leading to widespread anger and frustration. This has manifested in protests and demonstrations across Europe, with businesses often targeted. For example, oil companies have been a prime target for climate activists, who argue that they are profiting from the crisis while contributing to climate change. However, other businesses have also been affected, as activists seek to pressure governments into taking action to address the crisis.

The impact on businesses

The rise in activism is having a significant impact on businesses in a number of ways. Businesses are facing disruptions to their operations, damage to their property, and intimidation of their staff. This can lead to financial losses, reputational damage, and a decline in customer confidence.

Terrorism and extremism

Within a global landscape characterized by political and socio-economic instability, the persistent threats of terrorism and extremism remained prominent. The utilization of emerging technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles and encrypted messenger systems in attacks mandated that businesses remain vigilant at all times. The reverberations of terrorism, encompassing heightened national security measures, had disruptive implications for international businesses.

Mitigating the risks

Despite the challenges, businesses can take steps to mitigate the risks posed by terrorism and extremism. These include:

  • Developing and implementing robust security protocols: This includes physical security measures, such as access control and surveillance systems, as well as employee training on how to identify and respond to suspicious activity.
  • Strengthening communication and collaboration with law enforcement: Businesses should maintain open lines of communication with local law enforcement agencies to share information and receive alerts about potential threats.
  • Promoting a culture of vigilance and awareness: Employees should be trained to recognize and report suspicious activity, and the company should foster an environment where employees feel comfortable doing so.
  • Continually reviewing and updating security strategies: As the threat landscape evolves, businesses need to regularly review and update their security strategies to ensure they remain effective.

Espionage

The threat of industrial espionage cast a formidable shadow, as both nation states and private entities employed sophisticated yet economical operations. These included the deployment of spyware, recording devices, and monitoring tools. Social media has also been weaponized to cultivate individuals within the business, turning them into an insider threats.

The Impact of industrial espionage

Industrial espionage can have a devastating impact on businesses. A successful breach can lead to the loss of intellectual property, which can be difficult and expensive to replace. It can also damage a company's reputation and lead to a loss of customers. In some cases, it can even lead to the collapse of a company.

Protecting your business from industrial espionage

There are a number of steps that businesses can take to protect themselves from industrial espionage. These include:

  • Implementing strong security measures: This includes using firewalls, antivirus software, and other security tools to protect your computer systems.
  • Educating employees about industrial espionage: Employees should be aware of the signs of industrial espionage and how to report suspicious activity.
  • Monitoring your network for suspicious activity: This can be done using intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS).
  • Being careful about what information you share online: Social media can be a valuable tool for businesses, but it can also be a target for threat actors Be careful about what information you share online, and be sure to protect your social media accounts.

How risk intelligence enhances business resilience

As businesses navigate an increasingly interconnected world, security's importance has gone beyond traditional measures, playing a pivotal role in building resilience. Organizations leveraging security intelligence, such as that provided by the Risk Intelligence Center, gain a proactive edge.

“It's not just about defense; it's about staying one step ahead in identifying and mitigating potential risks,” says Mike Evans, director of Securitas’ RIC.“As we face an uncertain future, having the right intel at the right time is paramount. Just as important is having a trusted security partner that’s equipped with data-driven intelligence and a proactive mindset.”

Entering a new chapter, the insights gained serve as drivers for innovation and proactive strategies. By dedicating themselves to harnessing intelligence, adjusting to emerging threats, and nurturing collaborations with dependable security providers, businesses position themselves strongly to confront whatever challenges 2024 may present.

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