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Inclusion and diversity need to underpin our approach to risk

Sarah Isted Risk Management Partner, PwC United Kingdom 09 November, 2021

As we begin to move into the post-pandemic world, there are a range of systemic risks facing individuals, organisations and society. These challenges are consistent regardless of the industry you work in or your personal background, gender or race.

I had the privilege of hosting a short series of Rethink risk Leadership Exchanges recently, where a diverse group of business leaders and risk professionals discussed how we are addressing these risks in the current climate and how this might change in the future. These were inspiring and uplifting sessions, which emphasised that our response to complex risks needs to prioritise collaboration, a sense of common purpose, and a focus on inclusion and diversity.

Rethinking our response to complex risks

The challenges on the horizon are complicated, interconnected and pressing. There is a shared recognition that we need more talent to deliver on our plans than we have access to. We want to maximise the opportunities that changing societal behaviours bring but are struggling to fully keep pace with evolving expectations. We have to rebuild global supply chains. We want to accelerate growth, to help the world recover from the pandemic, while reducing inequalities. And we want to do all of this while responding to climate change and the threat of cyber attacks on the digital infrastructure we all rely upon.

If these challenges were easy to solve, we would have done so by now. They aren’t – they are complex and they will take years, not months, to fix. In a world where our individual attention spans reduce each day and where organisations and governments are judged on their ability to make change quickly, tackling longer term problems is hard.

What inspired me, though, was the desire to work together to find collaborative solutions and retain a shared sense of purpose. There was excitement about what could lie ahead. The pandemic has shown us all that we have reserves of resilience that we would never have thought possible and that, when we need to, we can solve problems quickly. We can take risks, act swiftly and show compassion. We have shown that as individuals, as organisations and as a society, we can do this when there is an urgent need. We must do the same when the need isn’t immediate but is fundamental.

Diversity of thought

There was one message that came through clearly from our discussions with those leading organisations. To solve these challenges, we need diversity of thought. We need different points of view, different experiences and different approaches to help us work through the complexities. We need to collaborate, bringing together wisdom from colleagues, competitors, friends and family.

To support this diversity of thought, we must build a culture that is inclusive, allowing everyone to feel comfortable to raise their voice. We must encourage those who are quieter and listen to the person with an opposing view to our own. No-one should be made to feel unvalued for their ideas.

As a group of risk professionals, we recognised that our teams weren’t always as diverse as they needed to be. To lead our organisations in their response to risk, we must challenge ourselves on the diversity of our approach. I recognise that in my team and it is something that I am focused on. It was fantastic to hear so many make the same commitment.

Tackling problems together

The future isn’t going to be easy, we all know that. It is difficult, though, not to feel excited as we come out of the pandemic. The simple things like being able to see our families, to travel, to make plans certainly bring a huge smile to my face.

We do need a little time to recover, to look after ourselves and those that we love, and then we need to get started again, harnessing the best of what we’ve changed and zeroing in on what needs to evolve further. This means bringing diversity of thought within an inclusive culture to tackle the challenges facing our wonderful world.

We now know and appreciate, perhaps more than ever, how precious our world and way of life is. It is worth working hard for. It is worth working incredibly hard for. I was inspired by what I heard from those leading organisations and I can’t wait to see what we can collectively achieve as we tackle these challenges together and as we rethink risk to create a better future.

Contact us

Sarah Isted

Sarah Isted

Risk Management Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7834 251939

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