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Businesses plan to boost resilience in response to pandemic

One year after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, PwC’s second Global Crisis Survey has looked at the worldwide business community’s response to this disruptive global crisis. More than 2,800 business leaders shared data and insights, representing organisations of all sizes, in 29 industries and across 73 countries.

The first crisis survey, published in 2019, revealed that 95% of respondents expected a crisis within the next two years - but not a pandemic, which had dropped altogether from the list of threats business leaders said they feared. The past year has underscored that the challenge of crisis management is not about predicting the future, but dealing with the unpredictable. Businesses must focus on building a foundation of resilience to weather whatever comes next.

The legacy of the pandemic

More than 70% of respondents to this year’s survey said their business was negatively impacted by the pandemic and 20% said the crisis had a positive impact overall on their organisation. Technology and healthcare organisations were more likely to be positively impacted, while travel and hospitality sectors suffered the most negative effects. Organisations that fared well were more likely to rely on a dedicated crisis team to drive their response to the crisis.

"As global organisations assess their response to the pandemic, the survey data and insights provide a compelling roadmap for rethinking and strengthening resilience capabilities," stated Rudy Hoskens, partner and crisis leader at PwC Belgium. "All eyes are finally looking toward the future. Learning from how businesses responded to the crisis is an important first step toward building the right foundation for what's next. Crisis planning, resilience programmes and the protection and consideration of physical and emotional needs of their employees are all integral parts to preparing for the inevitable.”

PwC's survey reveals that even with a well-defined crisis team organisations need an agile crisis management programme that can adapt to address various types of disruption. Only 35% of organisations had a crisis response plan that was 'very relevant', which means the majority didn't design their plans to be 'crisis-agnostic' - a hallmark of a resilient organisation.

A brighter outlook

The outlook for 2021 is positive. According to PwC’s 24th Annual Global CEO Survey, published in March, a record-high 82% of Belgian CEOs believe global economic growth will improve in 2021. There is also optimism around putting the experience of the crisis to good use. Three out of four respondents to the 2021 Global Crisis Survey state they are confident they can successfully integrate what they’ve learned through the crisis and invigorate their organisational resilience.

Business leaders are also determined to capitalise upon the lessons from the crisis. According to the CEO Survey, 52% are explicitly factoring pandemics and other health crises into their strategic risk management activities, and 88% are increasing their focus on preparing for systemic risk and so-called 'black swan' events. Three quarters are increasingly focusing on taking on aspects of risk mitigation traditionally managed by governments and multilateral organisations.

Organisations in a better place today were significantly more likely to say they had already given substantial attention to organisational resilience and planned how to respond to significant business disruption. Seven out of 10 organisations are planning to increase their investment in building resilience. And among risk leaders, that number is as high as nine in 10.

"95% of business leaders report that their crisis management capabilities need improvement," said Roy Coppieters, director in Resilience and Crisis Leadership at PwC Belgium. "Building resilience into your organisational DNA requires addressing it as a priority. Resilience is fundamental to how an organisation weathers disruption and creates new opportunities. For businesses, it’s about bouncing back from massive disruption, but more importantly, it’s about finding new ways to meet increasingly high expectations, and to restore the trust placed in them by society."

About the survey

The 2021 Global Crisis survey is an assessment of the global business community’s response to unprecedented social, economic and geopolitical disruption. Between 20 August 2020 and 25 January 2021, 2,814 respondents across 73 countries and 29 industries shared insights on the impact of the crisis.

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