Geopolitical risks a rising threat of global supply chains companies told

Business have been warned that the spread of geopolitical risks will be a major safety factor for staff and supply chains in the year ahead.

Security and health risk services company, International SOS has published its annual interactive Risk Map 2024, with geopolitical risks and climate threat rising up the corporate risk agenda.

The map provides organisations with underlying medical and security risk ratings reflecting the impact of disruptive events, such as the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas.

For the first time, the Risk Map includes a layer which also outlines climate change risks. Compiled by INFORM (a collaboration between the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change and Joint Research Centre of European Commission), the data provides quantified estimates of the impacts of climate change on the future risk of humanitarian crises and disasters. This risk index is intended to inform policy choices across climate mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and humanitarian assistance for greater resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.

International SOS said it is seeing a rising trend in the number of climate-related alerts being issued to clients as rising global temperatures are increasing health risks around the world. Greater support has been requested by businesses on this issue. There were 80% more medical alerts issued by International SOS relating to climate change factors in 2023 compared to 2022. This statistic highlights just how significant the issue is to businesses and their leaders.

Dr Irene Lai, global medical director at International SOS explained: “Just one example, the extreme heat events this year, with the first ever named heatwave “Cerberus” hitting Europe, may become commonplace. In addition to the physical impacts of extreme heat, there can be significant negative effects on mental health. It is essential businesses plan for this, adapting our way of living and working to protect health, while also taking steps to slow and eventually reverse the trend in rising temperatures.”

However, geopolitical risks are a looming threat according to the risk map.

Sally Llewellyn, global security director, at International SOS explained:  “For the coming year, geopolitical tensions, unrest and political instability are expected to impact business operations. This is reflected in the map with the Sahel, parts of the Middle East and Ukraine in the ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ security risk category. International SOS continues to support organisations operating in these locations, including through providing verified information and advice on how such risks will affect their workforce or by supporting evacuations where needed.”

She added due to new and evolving conflicts, some of the most notable risk rating increases this year have been parts of Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Russia and across the Sahel. Ecuador and parts of Colombia have also increased following a consistent rise in criminality and unrest.

In some regions, the risk rating has decreased. Most notably, the risk ratings for El Salvador and parts of Nepal have reduced following sustained downward trends across a number of risk factors.

Changes to medical risk continue to vary across countries and regions. Two notable improvements in medical risk this year are Bolivia and Côte d’Ivoire, largely based on the gradual improvement in access to quality medical care, particularly in the major cities.

“The Risk Map also provides a better understanding of the wider security situation in countries which employees may be travelling through or working in,” The company said. “It helps to better inform organisations so they are able to create tailored solutions to mitigate the specific risks that their workforces may encounter.”