Paul Callum: “COVID19 - The risks and how to mitigate these for businesses?”

Bart Dalton

We welcomed a phone interview with ex Chief Detective Superintendent Paul Callum of Resilient World Solutions ltd; a business dedicated to protecting vulnerable people by helping them identify, mitigate and manage risk. Paul offers consultancy and works directly with companies to understand their exposure, risk and develop continuous improvement plans, providing training packages for staff, as well as sitting as risk advisory board members such East Midlands Chamber of Commerce and our own Subtle Speaks CIC.

Over the past month, we have been exploring the risk factors of the global Covid-19 pandemic and how to mitigate further risk. Paul offered his insights to ensure your business can still thrive and survive during these times of uncertainty.

“Minimise the threat and the risk and maximise opportunities!”

What has been the most common barriers for organisations during Covid-19?

“The risks I have identified for businesses are; large rise in thefts, counterfeit goods, fraud, particularly cybercrime. We have had a rise and the corruption and severe delays of reports, so supply chains are being affected massively; whether you’re a small business or big business. We have seen a big rise in Coronavirus themed malicious apps and websites, with lots of emails phishing attacks and stealing personal information. There have been a lot of criminals who have been going around claiming to be legitimate businesses, knocking on doors saying they’re to help with shopping, then gaining access to houses.

Food crime interestingly has been a factor; there has been an unbelievable rise in the concerns of adulteration of food and a 94% increase in fraudulent contamination of food. These are criminals infiltrating supply chains and trying to make more money at a time where people are very vulnerable. I feel this is due to economic uncertainty and financial risk at the minute and how people and businesses are struggling to access funds and manage cash flow effectively.

There has been growth, sadly in people trying to access child porn. Due to the number of laptops used at home, there has been a significant rise. Sadly, there has been a major growth in child exploitation and grooming of children.

Standards are dropping; people are allowing some kind of lack around standards, whether that would be quality standards, hygiene standards or ethical standards. I understand why they are doing that; they are attempting to free up supply chains and ease the pressure. But, don’t lose sight of those core standards down the line because there will be a point soon where we will be back to normal and there will be checks of these procedures, it will be hard for organisations to get back to where they were originally before the global pandemic. ”

Unintended consequences is the phrase at the moment, with decisions being made, you need to stop and think of the unintended consequences; everything listed above comes under this. Everyone is working from home, there are lots of issues at home around homework, health and safety and cyber security.

Something that I would like mention is the corporate, social side of things and the fact that some of the decisions being made are causing real potential to human rights breaches on labour exploitation, child labour, women’s rights and forced labour. We have seen a lot of big-name brands around the world who’ve stopped orders that they’ve made, causing huge problems down the supply chain. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia have had a massive problem with high street names cancelling multi-million-pound orders. They have cancelled the orders, made people redundant, the workers don’t get paid very well to start with and there’s no real social security in the country, so suddenly, there is mass unemployment and mass poverty and real issues workers face.

Another unintended consequence we have seen is that Malaysia is big producer of rubber gloves for the NHS and authorities around the world and Malaysia has got a really bad human rights labour exploitation on the production of rubber gloves, so there has been a big drive and pressure on companies to source rubber gloves and source the materials to supply them. Again, those unintended consequences are a potential labour exploitation, so the big message is to look at the unintended consequences and stop for a minute; work around a model of risk and think ‘If I’m going to make that decision, what’s the information I need to have? What facts do I need? What are the risks involved and how am I going to mitigate these risks?’"

What are the common mistakes companies make when planning to mitigate further risk?

"I think the obvious one for me, is waiting for somebody else to make a decision for them. This includes waiting for the government, waiting for lockdown to end, asking the question, when can I go back to work? I think that waiting in that state of inertia is no good. You’ve got to horizon scan, look to the future and devise a plan. You can’t breach against what the Government guidelines are stating but use things like the government guidelines, legislation, all these areas of knowledge to guide your decision but, don’t sit around waiting for someone else to make a decision about your business, it’s not going to happen. No one knows your business like you do, you are the expert in your business; you know your staff, your product and suppliers and customers. You’re the expert, you have to put plans together for your business; the biggest mistake is waiting and not looking to the future. A lot of people have been focused on finance and how they can access money and move forward, yes, these are real critical decisions, but we’ve been in this situation for six/seven weeks; I think a really progressive company would say ‘I’ve got a handle of what’s happening now, what I haven’t got a handle on is what’s going to happen in six months or actually even further down the line’ Ask yourself, ‘what is your business model going to look like?’ The mistake for me is not having a plan for the future."

What would you suggest to organisations during Covid-19 to mitigate further risk?

“I have been putting together something to assist with this. We used to use a decision-making model in the Police force called the ‘National Decision model’. This primarily came about to manage risks around Fire arms and for things like floods and emergency planning. There are some elements of it that are fantastic for businesses, so I’ve put together what I’ve called the ‘Resilient Decision Model’ and it’s a critical service to help people make decisions. At the centre of this model are your core values as a business, so every decision that you make will reflect the core values of your business. Those core values can be roughly translated into what would the public expect a certain type of business to do. If you think about a food manufacturer and their problems at the minute; what does the public expect a food manufacturer to do? They expect them to produce quality food that is safe and that’s within regulations and has been created by a workforce that has been treated properly and fairly at a reasonable and fair price. So, every aspect of your decision making should reflect back, ‘what are your core values?’ and what is it that you’re trying to achieve. The whole resilient decision model is about reflecting back to your core values and putting together a plan. I think dealing with decisions as they come along are not good enough, you need to be proactive, you’ve got to understand what information you have currently got and is there anymore information that you need, where do you get it from? What more do you need to know before you can start considering the risks?

You then have to move onto assessing what your risks are, so you have to do a risk assessment of your business and then put those risks in a priority order, it may well be that you’ve identified something that isn’t that serious but, it may come into play in six months or later on. You then have to look at the likelihood versus the impact, so you look at the risk level and how it will help you prioritise risk. Then you start developing a plan, to mitigate those risks, you want to be looking at what your plan is that will minimise the risk of harm to a person and at the same time maximise the opportunities to satisfy your customers to provide a quality service. Minimise the threat and the risk and maximise the opportunities. When you are developing the plan you need to make sure that you reflect on your legal obligation and the policies that are involved – what have you got internally and what have got externally? You then need to map out what your options are so there are always different ways of dealing with it. If you reflect your decision back where people have been sued or there have been employment tribunals or criminal court cases. What lawyers and barristers normally do, they won’t look at what you did, it's what you didn’t do and why you didn’t do it. If you have a documented record of the different types of choices you could have made and there’s a reason why you didn’t do them, bullet point your options and your preferred choice and then create a contingency plan. Then, you have yourself a nice document there to help start forming and implementing your plans.

The key thing people forget to do is review their decision. If you are in the middle of a crisis you can’t do it straight away but the first opportunity you have, make sure you go back and review that decision, is it doing what you wanted? And if it’s not, adjust it and amend it and put it in the right direction. Reviewing is a big thing; people forget to review their decisions. If you look at this crisis six weeks ago, a lot of people would have furloughed staff and made decisions and shut down supply chains. My advice now would be to review all those decisions you’ve made six weeks ago and do that as soon as you can. The supply chains that you decided to stop or the staff you decided to furlough – is it still relevant now? Because one of the problems you are going to get is that some businesses are going to have too close. If you’ve got people that need to be made redundant and you sign off the people who have been furloughed. You can see people that will challenge this and say why was I furloughed? Why was it me instead of another person? You need to have something rational to showcase why you chose certain people and document all the issues I have talked about then that will help you to understand the rationale behind your decisions. ”

“They won’t look at what you did, it's what you didn’t do and why you didn’t do it.”

3 Key takeawys;

  • 1. Have a plan, analyse your short medium and long term plans.
  • 2. Map out your risks.
  • 3. Review, review, review!

To summarise COVID19 has shocked not only businesses but the world itself. Staying at home is paramount, look out for one another, be supportive of one another and share your findings (check the source before). Together we’re stronger and will get through this!

Subtle Speaks // Paul Callum