Prior to COVID-19 only around 21% of board members felt their organizations were ‘very prepared’ to respond to an adverse risk event. In this article we look at how the current crisis has impacted business continuity planning.

A study of 500 board members and CEOs, conducted before the pandemic and covering a variety of global businesses, sought to assess the preparedness of organizations to a negative impact event. In the main, the interviewees felt their organizations, in terms of planning, communications, recovery and resilience, fell somewhere between ‘prepared’ and ‘somewhat prepared’.

Preparation is the key to successfully navigating adverse risk events, such as a pandemic. Organizations need to ensure they have a current, proactive business continuity plan (BCP). They need to ensure, as a priority, that the structures are in place for their business to continue in the event of a negative impact incident.

A key message learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that companies with an effective BCP have generally responded strongly to the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.

Business Continuity Plan

BCPs should be re-assessed and updated on an annual basis. This should be standard practice and a strategic imperative for any business looking to move forward. The plan should recognize the importance of safeguarding employees, the most valuable asset a company holds, and should focus on achieving ‘business as usual’.

The COVID -19 pandemic has highlighted several important aspects that organizations must consider when drafting a BCP. Firstly, it must contain plans for remote working. Secondly, it needs to ensure that critical functions, such as supply chain operations, can continue even when employees cannot be there due to quarantine/social distancing rules. Thirdly, it must have a focus on the impact of a pandemic.

While some adverse risk events may only affect one or two aspects of a busines, a pandemic or similar occurrence will affect everything. It will reduce the ability of employees and customers to travel, diminish workforces, and increase demands for specialist personal protective equipment (PPE), additional employee monitoring and remote working.

Focusing on these, when planning business continuity, will also have a positive effect when not dealing with a pandemic. For example, there are many reasons why employees may be kept from their places of work – chemical spills, power outages, storm damage, etc. It should also be remembered that, as we begin to return to normal, many businesses and employees will have become accustomed to remote working and may choose to continue working in this way, to a greater or lesser extent.

Learning from COVID

Businesses benefit in a number of ways from investing in a proactive BCP. Recent experiences have shown that, in general, organizations whose BCPs focused on safeguarding employees, with a ‘business as usual’ approach, underwent less disruption to their bottom line.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also afforded organizations a unique opportunity to understand their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Unlike mock exercises, the current crisis has tested BCPs in real-time and real-life situations. It has given organizations an opportunity to fix problems and introduce improvements to their BCP that will benefit and strengthen the business. Conversely, businesses that do not operate a proactive BCP that works for their operation have found it difficult to return to ‘business as usual’, a situation that may continue for a long time.

COVID-19 has also shown that a central part of any proactive BCP, moving forward, must be the inclusion of plans for remote working. Without this, the business may not be able to function, but with this, the business can run at near peak performance.

What is Needed

As businesses around the world begin to operate in the ‘new normal’, they should see COVID-19 as an opportunity to learn and improve. Questions they should ask themselves include, “what did they need to respond to during the crisis?”, “what were they not prepared for?”, “what steps need to be included in their BCP?”, and “what alternatives were available if the initial plan failed?”

Companies that documented and recorded their actions during the pandemic have found themselves in a stronger position. Verification allows them to build a tried and tested set of actions to construct rules for best practice. To be effective, this process should involve all key personnel at the site.

The heart of every effective BCP must be strategies to maintain the effective delivery of critical products and services. This must include giving those people charged with responsibility for crisis management clearly defined actions for maintaining business continuity. It should also assess employee access and be ready to embrace both high-tech and low-tech solutions.

SGS Solutions

SGS offers a range of services to help organizations respond effectively to adverse risk events with the minimum disruption to their day-to-day operations. Our processes improve operational resilience, strengthen recovery capability processes, and help ensure the continued survival of a business.

Our services offer several benefits, including:

  • Improved risk profile
  • Lower insurance premiums
  • Meeting expectation of regulators and other stakeholders
  • Reduce financial impact of incident
  • Reduce disruption caused by incidents


We also offer a range of services to help organizations implement the ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management standard.

Learn about ISO 22301 certification.

Learn about SGS Business Continuity Management services.



Your name

Your e-mail

Name receiver

E-mail address receiver

Your message




Sign up