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How Fashion & Apparel Companies Can Build Organizational Resilience

As the fashion and apparel industries begin to recover from the wake of the pandemic, a focus on organizational resilience has never been more important. As we have witnessed, whether an organization thrives or even survives depends on how resilient and how capable they are to prepare for, respond and adapt to disruptive events.

While no one could have seen COVID-19 coming, it has set the tone for a focus on preparedness and adaptability moving ahead. In this “survival of the fittest” business environment, entities must proactively build a strategic approach to risk management that identifies, evaluates and mitigates the impact of an organization’s risks. With many fashion and apparel businesses either unable to receive or manufacture merchandise for months and months on end, the residual effects of the pandemic are still a huge concern to many, and rebounding has been very challenging for many within the industry.

While there is no single strategy or solution to make an organization resilient, an organization can enhance its resilience by: strengthening individual management disciplines of the organization that manage risk and doing so in an integrated and coordinated manner, building a culture that ensures the organization behaves in a healthy manner and increases its adaptive capacity and ability to manage change.

Strong risk management practices are an important aspect of resilience. Though risk management can be challenging, the importance of building a solid foundation to protect your people, property and profitability is vital. Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM) is a strategic, all-hazards approach to risk management that provides a framework to identify, evaluate and mitigate the impact of security risks to an organization.

A comprehensive and effective risk management program incorporates the following elements and associated capabilities:

Cybersecurity

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized a model where an essential point of contact between a business and its consumers is online, forcing fashion and apparel businesses into somewhat of a digital transformation. These changes have resulted in the development of new websites, mobile apps, increased digital content and heavier online traffic. However, as organizations rely more heavily on digital platforms, their exposures to cybercrime are enhanced.

Developing a resilient organization means considering newer and ever-evolving risks like cybersecurity. In fact, cybersecurity may be one of the least understood areas of the risk picture. Adequately managing cyber risk does not require all participants and stakeholders to be technical subject matter experts. However, it does require comprehensive awareness of cyber risk issues and strategic mitigation efforts, especially vendor risk management and privacy laws.

Emergency Action Planning

Emergency action plans (EAP) are intended to protect people and property, as well as to prevent further harm during an emergency event. As defined by OSHA, an EAP facilitates and organizes employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. When there are well-developed emergency plans and employees are trained properly, there are fewer and less severe injuries and structural damage. Conversely, poorly-designed plans and poor training lead to disorganized evacuation and emergency response, which could lead to avoidable injuries and property damage.

Crisis Risk Management

When a crisis hits, a resilient organization will bounce back or even pivot, if necessary. Crisis risk management includes an organization’s ability to coordinate an effective response to protect people, operations, profitability and reputation. Planning may require gathering resources for outside support and partnerships to manage the issues, as well as a careful consideration of the vulnerabilities inside the organization.

Business Continuity

Business continuity plans help keep a resilient organization operational. Key to this are processes that ensure critical activities keep going during a crisis. A formal written plan notifies team members of their responsibilities and allows them to take charge when the time comes, especially if they have already practiced those tasks during drills and exercises.

Fraud Risk Management

Theft and fraud are two of the most complex risks to your organization today. Indeed, they can be so costly that they threaten even the most resilient organizations. While external and insider threats are posing new and heightened risks, regulations and public scrutiny are demanding greater responsibility. Now more than ever, organizations are looking for ways to manage the risk of fraud, especially within the ESRM context and in a way that takes industry- specific considerations into account.

Planning and preparing for all areas of risk today are vital to your organization’s survival tomorrow. Working with a knowledgeable insurance specialist who understands emerging risk exposures and negotiates coverage that is customized toward your needs is key in procuring protection and preventing additional disruption to your business.

Frank DeLucia serves as senior vice president of Hub International Northeast, a full-service global insurance brokerage. He can be reached by phone at (212) 338-2395 or at frank.delucia@ hubinternational.com. For more information on Hub, please visit hubinternational.com.

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