WILMINGTON, Del.—Companies like DuPont—a global plastics and chemicals leader with more than two centuries of history—don't often send out emails that begin with the words: "Startling results found…" So when they do, yes, you're going to read that email.
The full headline of the press release was: "Startling results found in DuPont sustainable solutions' 2018 global operations risk survey of corporate leaders." That was followed by: "Executives' lack of proper risk governance is putting their businesses in jeopardy."
The release focuses on results from DuPont's recent survey of executives from more than 350 companies. Sixty percent of those firms are in what DuPont describes as "high-hazard industries," including manufacturing, mining and metals and oil and gas. Forty-four percent of the firms in the survey are based in North America.
In the release, officials with Wilmington-based DuPont said that "despite overwhelming evidence of business disruptions that can occur from failing to manage various risks, company executives are not adequately identifying and preparing for risks that can have potentially catastrophic implications on business operations."
"If left unchanged, a company's operational performance, business continuity, right to operate and ability to deliver consistent value to shareholders could all suffer," they said, adding that "while there is general agreement and acknowledgement among participating executives of important characteristics of a successful risk management program, leaders are failing to implement those characteristics in their organizations."
Key findings of the survey included:
- Executives are not placing sufficient emphasis on risks that can lead to large-scale incidents. Executives appear to allow low incident rates to give them a false sense of security and are not paying attention to other indicators of potential significant events.
- Executives address gaps in risk management processes by adding more processes. Executives participating in the survey agree that processes and systems alone are inadequate to manage risk and ensure operational performance. Forty-four percent of those responding admitted that gaps in existing systems present a challenge for their organizations.
- Executives confirm a disconnect among personnel in managing risk. A quarter of surveyed executives feel front-line personnel aren't aligned on top risks facing the company. More than half don't feel senior executives are fully aligned on top risks facing the organization. That's an increase of 35 percent versus last year's survey.
"Old ways of looking at risk are insufficient in today's global business environment if executives want their organizations to be sustainable and prosper," DuPont executive Davide Vassallo said in the release. Vassallo serves as Global Managing Director of DuPont Sustainable Solutions.
"In order to transform an organization, executives should integrate risk into the organizations business strategy to engage employees, increase productivity and drive competitive advantage," he added.
The results of the survey are a bit surprising and seem to run contrary to an increased focus on safety that's been espoused by leaders in the plastics industry and beyond for the last several years at least.