The Impact of Political Protests on Business Continuity

Published on July 12, 2019 by SCREEN Intelligence Team

Most companies know to prepare a supply chain for resilience in the face of severe weather events and natural disasters, however, an increasingly disruptive phenomena to business continuity are medium- and large-scale political protests.

Over the past months, waves of political protests have wracked Hong Kong. Ranging in size from millions of people surrounding the Legislative Council to tens of thousands of demonstrators marching through shopping areas and rail stations, these political protests disrupted business continuity within and through Hong Kong. The protests, centered around an extradition bill that would allow for some arrested to be extradited for trial in mainland China, has shutdown railway stations, clogged traffic throughout the city, and resulted in hundreds of shop and business closures. The Hong Kong protests were also marked by numerous incidents of vandalism and violence as demonstrators graffitied government buildings and clashed with police officials, who had to deploy tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. As the protests ebb and wane in Hong Kong, companies must consider the day-to-day situation on the ground when determining business activities within or through the city. Companies within Hong Kong are also concerned about the safety and convenience of their employees and must acclimate to any changes to the situation on the ground.

Political protests, asides disrupting traffic and day-to-day commerce, can also create vulnerabilities for shippers and logistics firms. In Haiti, political protests are relatively commonplace since early February, typically focused in Port-au-Prince, but spanning cities countrywide. During flare-ups of these protests, demonstrators will typically blockade roads, creating opportunities for thieves to steal from transiting cargo trucks or worse, attack truck drivers. The issue has become so widespread that truck drivers from the Dominican Republic will refuse to travel into Haiti while protests are ongoing or without additional safety measures due to a heightened fear of hijackings.

In Honduras, political protests over the past months have resulted in numerous strikes of public workers as well as mass demonstrations throughout the capital city of Tegucigalpa. During the June demonstrations in Honduras, cargo truckers went on strike, blocking roadways within the capital, and created a fuel shortage in parts of the city. Earlier in the month, 30 shipping containers belonging to an American-subsidiary fruit company were set ablaze and burned, causing the company to temporarily pause production. Even more recently, in late June, the protests in Honduras turned violent as the national military was deployed after an escalation that left two people dead. The unpredictability of these political protests requires a wide range of planning to effectively counteract any disruptions to business continuity.

Effective business continuity planning spans not only severe weather and internal labor protests or strikes, it also incorporates other difficult-to-predict disruptions to business continuity such as road closures, suspensions of business activity, and the presence of police action, all of which can take place during a political protest. Companies must be mindful of the security and safety of the employees throughout a supply chain and be able to adapt and adjust to accommodate any threats to said safety and security as well as any possible delays to business activities.