Costs Climb as Companies Move to Mitigate Supply Chain Interruptions

Some 70% of companies have experienced at least one supply chain interruption during the past year, with an unplanned IT or telecommunications outage the leading cause, according to the eighth edition of the Business Continuity Institute’s (BCI) Supply Chain Resiliency Report, produced in association with Zurich Insurance Group.

Covering 526 respondents in 64 countries, the report studies the causes, costs, and frequency of such events while also looking at companies’ progress in responding to supply chain interruptions and mitigating further occurrences.

While 70% of respondents reported at least one supply chain interruption during the past 12 months, only 17% said they have had no supply chain disruptions, with 13% saying they did not know. Perhaps more alarming is the increase to 13%—from 3% previously—of respondents reporting more than 20 such incidents.

Also alarming is the upward trajectory of costs associated with supply chain disruptions. The portion of respondents reporting cumulative losses of more than € 1 million ($1,058,171.30) resulting from supply chain interruptions jumped to 34% in this year’s survey from just 14% previously.

An unplanned IT or telecommunications outage was the leading cause of a supply chain disruption for the fifth consecutive year, followed by a loss of talent or skills, which jumped to second place from fifth, and then cyberattack or data breach, which dropped to third place from second. Despite this drop, the portion of respondents which said that cyberattacks and data breach had a ‘high impact’ on their supply chains increased from 14% to 17%.

Reaching the top 10 for the first time was terrorism, which moved to ninth from eleventh, while currency exchange rate volatility had the largest move up the list of event causes, jumping to seventh from 20th last year and cracking the top 10 for the first time since 2012. Insolvency in a company’s supply chain also reentered the top 10 for the first time since 2012, moving from 14th to 10th.

Lost productivity (68%), increased cost of working (53%), and customer complaints received (40%) were listed as the top three consequences of a supply chain interruption by respondents. The perception of such incidents can also hurt a company, with damage to brand reputation/image (38%), shareholder/stakeholder concern (30%), and share price fall (7%) all named by respondents as consequences of a supply chain disruption.

“It is crucial to note that the percentage of organizations reporting reputational damage as a result of supply chain disruption is at its highest level since the survey began. As this coincides with greater media scrutiny and social media discussions related to organizations, this result might be a good opportunity to reflect on reputation management and how supply chain disruptions might translate into adverse publicity for a given organization,” said the report.

As threats and costs grow, there appears to have been at least some progress in more closely addressing the issue.

While the percentage of respondents without firm-wide reporting of supply-chain incidents remains high at 66%, the portion of those using firm-wide reporting has grown steadily across the past five reports, rising from just 25% of respondents in 2012 to 34% in the 2016 report, the latest. Similarly, the portion of respondents which employ no reporting has declined steadily from 39% in 2012 to 28% in 2016.

As reporting is on the rise, so too is the complexity of interruption incidents as external supply chains cause more incidents. The portion of respondents which said the majority of their interruptions came from external supply chains jumped to 24% from 9% previously, and the portion attributing at least a quarter of interruptions to external suppliers more than doubled to 34% from just 15% previously.

Even with reporting on the increase, however, insurance uptake appears to be declining. Just 4% of respondents said they were fully insured against supply chain losses, down from 10% previously, with small and medium-sized enterprises more likely to be uninsured, at just 39%, than large organizations at 62%.

“These variations in insurance uptake may indicate a need to revisit business continuity arrangements and risk transfer strategies pertaining to supply chain disruptions,” according to the report.

Examining U.S. Immigration’s Economic Impact

In last night’s third and final presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle, immigration again emerged as a defining topic in discussion of both regulatory reform and the economy. With an increasing amount of immigration by highly skilled laborers—and, of course, the potential reputation impact on companies seen as giving more jobs to non-citizens or moving out of the country in pursuit of labor—changes in such policy have clear implications for risk professionals.

Last month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released one of the most comprehensive studies to date on the economic impact of immigration in the United States. Overall, the researchers found that immigration over the past couple of decades has done more good than harm, creating positive impacts on the national economy and causing little lasting impact on the wages or employment levels of native-born Americans. “Immigration enlarges the economy while leaving the native population slightly better off on average,” the study said, also pointing out increases in innovation, entrepreneurship and technological change across the economy. “The prospects for long run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high-skilled immigrants,” the researchers reported.

Some of the study’s key findings and conclusions include:

  • When measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small. To the extent that negative impacts occur, they are most likely to be found for prior immigrants or native-born workers who have not completed high school—who are often the closest substitutes for immigrant workers with low skills.
  • There is little evidence that immigration significantly affects the overall employment levels of native-born workers. As with wage impacts, there is some evidence that recent immigrants reduce the employment rate of prior immigrants. In addition, recent research finds that immigration reduces the number of hours worked by native teens (but not their employment levels).
  • Some evidence on inflow of skilled immigrants suggests that there may be positive wage effects for some subgroups of native-born workers, and other benefits to the economy more broadly.
  • Immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the U.S.
  • In terms of fiscal impacts, first-generation immigrants are more costly to governments, mainly at the state and local levels, than are the native-born, in large part due to the costs of educating their children. However, as adults, the children of immigrants (the second generation) are among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the U.S. population, contributing more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population.
  • Over the long term, the impacts of immigrants on government budgets are generally positive at the federal level but remain negative at the state and local level — but these generalizations are subject to a number of important assumptions. Immigration’s fiscal effects vary tremendously across states.

“The panel’s comprehensive examination revealed many important benefits of immigration—including on economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship—with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term,” said Francine D. Blau, Frances Perkins Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and professor of economics at Cornell University, and chair of the panel that conducted the study and wrote the report. “Where negative wage impacts have been detected, native-born high school dropouts and prior immigrants are most likely to be affected.”

Check out the April cover story from Risk Management, “Welcome to America: Why Immigration Matters for Business,” for more on the risk management implications of immigration into the United States.

Hidden Exposure: Protecting Your Business with Third-Party EPLI

Coffee shop
In today’s increasingly litigious society, harassment and discrimination are trending upward. To protect your business from workers’ claims, including wrongful termination, breach of employment contract, wrongful discipline, failure to employ or promote, sexual harassment and discrimination, you likely have employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) in place.

But if your employees frequently deal directly with the public, there may be a glaring gap in your coverage. Your business and workers may also be at risk for harassment or discrimination claims from a customer, client, supplier, vendor or visitor. The bad news: these types of claims are not covered by commercial general liability insurance or standard first-party EPLI.

To protect your business from customer or client allegations, third-party EPLI is the answer.

The types of wrongful acts typically covered by third-party EPLI are discrimination and harassment. Discrimination can include claims based on nationality, sex, disability, age, race, religion, pregnancy or sexual orientation. Harassment can take on many forms, such as unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other types of verbal or physical abuse. Third-party EPLI reimburses your company for court and legal fees, as well as any settlements between the business and the accuser.

Third-party EPLI may be appropriate if you frequently meet with clients or deal with vendors. And it is absolutely essential for businesses that interact with the public. Examples include large customer service teams, cable television installers, contractors, restaurant, hotel and transportation workers, and real estate agents.

For example, a customer sued a New Jersey gas station after being sexually assaulted by an attendant who was filling up her car. The woman claimed the station attendant made inappropriate advances, performed a lewd act and touched her while she was buying gas, according to NJ.com. The woman also claimed that another employee at the gas station did nothing to prevent the incident or intervene during it.

In another example that made national headlines, thousands of African American patrons of Denny’s restaurants claimed they were refused service, were forced to wait longer, had to prepay for food, or pay more for food compared to white customers, the New York Times reported. These claims, which totaled 4,300 and spanned several years across multiple states, culminated in a class-action lawsuit against the national restaurant chain. Denny’s settled the suit in federal court, and members of the class-action suit were awarded $54 million for damages.

Starbucks was sued in federal court by a group of 12 deaf customers who said they were mocked and mistreated at a coffee shop in New York City. The group claimed being harassed multiple times because of their disability. During one instance, a Starbucks employee called the police in response to a group of deaf patrons who met at a Starbucks to hold their monthly Deaf Chat Group, although the patrons were paying customers, according to USA Today. The police apologized to the patrons and reprimanded the employee for calling the police when there was no illegal conduct.

As you can see, the level of interaction a company has with those who might claim a wrongful act, and the industry in which you operate, can affect the cost of third-party EPLI. Other factors come into play as well, like whether you’ve been sued in the past over employment practices.

While third-party EPLI helps defray the cost of lawsuits and judgments brought against your business, one thing it doesn’t protect is your reputation. Therefore, forward-thinking employers are doing more than just purchasing a third-party EPLI policy; they’re also taking steps to make it less likely they will have to use that policy. Effective training and education, no matter your level of exposure, can help prevent claims of wrongful acts against your business or employees. Creating training programs to educate employees on what constitutes harassment and discrimination, as well as putting processes in place about what to do in the event of an allegation, are good starting points.

When screening and hiring new employees, it is essential to create programs that help your hiring team vet candidates solely on their qualification for the job. Documenting your process helps everyone understand the requirements and will provide backup should issues arise.

It’s also a good practice to display all corporate policies as they relate to hiring and worker conduct in employee handbooks so the policy is available to everyone and can be reviewed when necessary. Many companies also ask employees to sign a document affirming they have read the employee handbook.

Unfortunately, all of the education and training in the world can’t stop a customer or vendor from claiming harassment or discrimination by one of your employees. But a carefully developed third-party EPLI plan that assesses your exposure and helps you completely cover your business can minimize your risk.

NFL Admits Game’s Link to Concussion Risk

football

After years of denying that the game of football could have caused degenerative brain disease in some players, the National Football League has finally admitted there is a link connecting the game to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). According to the New York Times:

Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, asked during a round-table discussion about concussions whether “there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like CTE,”

Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president for health and safety policy, said, “The answer to that is certainly, yes.” His response signaled a stunning about-face for the league, which has been accused by former players and independent experts of hiding the dangers of head injuries for decades.

Miller’s comments were backed the next day by league spokesperson Brian McCarthy. Miller’s answer may actually help the NFL, as “It could make it harder in the future for a player to accuse the league of concealing the dangers of the sport,” the Times said.

“Strategically, the NFL’s admission makes a world of sense,” Jeffrey A. Standen, dean of the Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, told the Times. “The league has paid a settlement to close all the claims previous to 2015. For future sufferers, the NFL has now effectively put them on notice that their decision to play professional football comes with the acknowledged risk of degenerative brain disease.”

While CTE has been found in former players, the NFL has for decades denied the danger, even after researchers with Boston University announced in 2014 that, in autopsies of 79 brains of former NFL players, 76 tested positive for CTE. A report in 2003 by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina found a connection between concussions and depression among former professional football players.

According to a 2007 UNC study, Recurrent Concussion and Risk of Depression in Retired Professional Football Players:

Our observed threefold prevalence ratio for retired players with three or more concussions is daunting, given that depression is typically characterized by sadness, loss of interest in activities, decreased energy, and loss of confidence and self-esteem. These findings call into question how effectively retired professional football players with a history of three or more concussions are able to meet the mental and physical demands of life after playing professional football.

The NFL has directed millions of dollars to research of CTE and head trauma and it gave $45 million to USA Football to promote safe tackling and reassure parents that football’s risks can be mitigated through on-field techniques and awareness, the Times said.