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Businesses struggling to manage modern supply chain exposures, Airmic warns

Airmic 10th October 2019

A potent combination of geopolitical tensions, climate volatility and technological dependencies is putting global supply chains under more strain than ever before, according to a report published today by Airmic, in collaboration with AIR Worldwide, Gallagher, HDI, Lloyd’s and Sedgwick.

The report entitled Complex Supply Chains in a Complex World, launched at Airmic’s ERM Forum in London on 9 October, warns that a desire for low cost networks has led some businesses to turn a blind eye to, or miss, the concentration of risk that may be building up in their supply chain which could result in a catastrophic event that can bring operations grinding to a halt and inflict significant reputational damage.

Furthermore, with supply chains becoming increasingly complex and opaque, many companies are struggling to fully map their exposure, with over half of businesses failing to have visibility beyond their direct (tier 1) suppliers.

According to the report, recent trends putting greater pressure on supply chains include:

  • The rise of nationalism, increasingly protectionist policies and Britain’s departure from the European Union, which are threatening to roll back free trade, global supply networks and cross-border relationships.
  • A volatile and more extreme climate, which is exposing the high volume of stock and supply routes that reside in areas exposed to natural disasters.
  • An increasing reliance on technology, connected devices and automated production lines which has transformed the risk profiles of supply chains in recent years, leaving businesses vulnerable to an IT outage, cloud disruption or cyber attack either on their own business or on one of their suppliers.

“Most businesses have a good understanding of their suppliers, but how many track their suppliers’ suppliers? The web of relationships in a typical modern supply chain is incredibly complex to unpick,” comments Richard Cutcher, research and development manager at Airmic. “This report is designed to support businesses inject resilience into their entire supply chain.” 

About the report:

The report, Complex Supply Chains in a Complex World, is a practical call-to-action to risk professionals and businesses to put in place a robust process for addressing risk in the supply chain. It includes advice on how to understand and manage supply chain risk, and how to ensure effective risk-financing is in place where necessary. It also includes lessons learned from the impact of the global carbon dioxide shortage in 2017, and advice for preparing for potential disruption from Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The report has been published alongside new research from Lloyd’s, supported by Airmic, Hidden Vulnerabilities in Supply Chain Risk: A Quantitative Risk Modelling Framework. To access this report, contact

Further comments:

Trevor Maynard, head of innovation, Lloyd’s, comments: “We welcome Airmic’s timely new report.  Supply chains are increasingly complex global networks of trade.  Disasters in one corner of the world can impact far away businesses in non-physical ways and Lloyd’s is keen to explore how we can protect our customers from risks to their intangible assets.”

Dr Kamban Parasuraman, principal engineer and manager at AIR Worldwide, comments: “Political risks and the escalating trade disputes have global companies caught in the crossfire. The evolving political risk landscape will continually force companies to move capacity and redraw the geographic footprint of their supply chains. Mitigating these emerging threats is key to sustainability.”

Iain Bell, director, Major Risks Practice, Gallagher, comments: “Standalone supply chain policies have been discussed for 10 years, but they remain uncommon and take-up is low. Whilst a full risk assessment of the supply chain is necessary before buying a policy, insurers also need to address the buyer’s principal concern, i.e. that any reduction in supply that leads to a loss of output or gross profit is insurable.”

About Airmic:

The leading UK association for everyone who has a responsibility for risk management and insurance for their organisation, Airmic has over 450 corporate members and more than 1,300 individual members. Individual members include company secretaries, finance directors, internal auditors, as well as risk and insurance professionals from all sectors. Airmic supports members through: training and research; sharing information; a diverse programme of events; encouraging good practice; and lobbying on subjects that directly affect our members.

About the ERM Forum:

Airmic’s ERM Forum is an annual one-day conference for risk management professionals, focused on the most pressing, challenging or topical issues in enterprise risk management. The 2019 ERM Forum, The Agile Profession, took place on 9 October at etc. Venues, London.

For more information contact:

Jessica Titherington | +44(0)7733 261445 |