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Resilience and standards – an answer to business continuity at a time of crisis

Marcin Szopa, commercial branch manager of BSI Group in Poland, talks to Michael Dembinski about how well prepared business really when it came to confronting such unprecedented interruption
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The Covid-19 pandemic came as a shock to many CEOs, who suddenly realised that their business continuity plans were either insufficient, out of date – or non-existent. How would you assess the state of readiness of Polish companies to cope with the effects of lockdown?

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought us to a new reality. Some CEOs were not ready for this. It’s not that continuity plans were non-existent, but some of them did not include situations like a pandemic. Businesses had considered many risks, but in some cases an epidemiological crisis was not one of them, or at least was not deemed as an important one.

Suddenly, this new situation appeared and we were all forced to react quickly. First of all, organisations needed to take care of their people, to make them safe and mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. In most cases, this step was taken without delay and there are some great examples of many companies prioritising the protection of their employees, from shops, to companies similar to BSI.The second thing was continuing business. For BSI, the challenge here was much bigger, because not all things were in our control. Transportation, disrupted supply chains and government guidelines forced companies to at least reduce their activities. Some of these risks were included in continuity plans, but organisations were not expecting them to all show up at the same time. We have had to deal with this in a different way, often changing our operational behaviour. At BSI we were ready to switch from traditional audits performed on site, to remote activities, including the delivery of online training for our customers.”

When the lockdown eases across Poland and organisations can return to some form of normality, what should be the chief priorities for business leaders, bearing in mind the likelihood that the virus will return or mutate?

“What companies are doing currently, and what we have observed by communicating with them, is that they are reviewing their operational model. We can use various scenarios about how the pandemic will continue to affect organisations. These are related to indicators such as the industry sector, its geographical location and the size of the business etc. Some of them believe the impact of the pandemic will last a longer time. This means that, during the risk analysis, we are building operational models for a longer period. We are changing our management systems, implementing new technologies and being innovative.

“This model will stay with organisations, because this situation may well return. As I said, this is the new reality; I strongly believe the world will be different after Covid-19. We are helping our clients to address that by building new strategies, performing risk analyses and delivering knowledge based on the available ISO standards. Business-continuity management systems are especially valid for this. Standards help to make businesses resilient. A lot of risks are now known. It means industry can be prepared for the next phase of the pandemic. At BSI, we will ensure our people are safe and we will secure our supplies and suppliers, who will of course start to operate in a different world. Although we don’t know the full impact of the pandemic, we do know it will be important for organisations to be well prepared, and to take a standardised approach in order to remain resilient.”

What lessons should CEOs learn to better protect their businesses in future epidemiological crises?

“First of all businesses need to adjust rebuild or build their business continuity plans. This preparation should not be postponed. We have to take the time to analyse all of the relevant risk factors and prepare our contingency plans. This will pay off in the future. We can often think that such plans are not so important. We have a lot of other things to do, including leading our business, securing production, selling, signing contracts and agreements, and all the other day-to-day operational activities. Covid-19 showed us a gap, so now it is time to change our mindset. This won’t be easy, because there will likely be a temptation to go back again and do business as before.”

Do you think the word 'resilience' will sit alongside 'sustainability' in future corporate visions and mission statements?

“BSI has been promoting the importance of embedding organisational resilience for a while now. For us it’s quite normal to think about being resilient. I expect this word will become a new motto for many other companies. We will remember this difficult time and the challenge it has created. We can help our clients to achieve this goal, to be more resilient. Standards are key to this. Some of these are related to sustainability and some to resilience. These two words will undoubtedly come together in the future.”

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for standards and certification for products like ventilators and PPE equipment. On the one hand, there have been case of fake certificates, on the other, especially in the early phases of the crisis, healthcare professionals were saying that it's better to have uncertified PPE equipment than not to have any at all. What is BSI Group's position on this issue?

“BSI has been notified about a large number of false personal protective equipment (PPE) certificates that are currently in circulation. The certificates that have proven to be false have predominantly related to disposable face masks, however some have included other personal protective equipment including gloves, protective coveralls and eye protection. BSI has been alerted to these certificates by various third parties across the world. Prior to purchase, we are advising anyone acquiring any form of safety equipment supported by a certificate that appears to be issued by BSI to verify that the certificate is genuine. This can be done by comparing the certificate or licence number to the VerifEye database on the BSI website. We would also advise that anyone sourcing PPE has a duty of care to make sure that the products meet the relevant regulatory requirements and are supported by genuine certificates of conformity. As a Notified Body for the PPE Regulation, BSI is committed to ensuring products are tested and assessed swiftly. We’re on hand to help clients and other manufacturers ensure safe and effective products can be placed on the market quickly so that medical professionals and first responders have access to the equipment they urgently need.

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