How resilient are food businesses?

Richard Werran, Director of Food at BSI analyzes the latest BSI Organizational Resilience Index – and considers what it reveals about the food industry

Only resilient organizations survive and prosper over the long term. With this in mind, BSI has developed the Organizational Resilience Index—the world’s first report and benchmarking tool that reveals just how resilient they are.


When BSI launched the first Organizational Resilience Index last year, we noted that it came at a time of intense and unrelenting business disruption – and that remains equally true of this year’s Index. The past year has tested the resilience of businesses globally to both internal and external challenges, from information security through to supply chain risks. It is forecast that the 33-year average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 in 1964 will shrink to just 12 years by 2027 further highlighting the need for businesses to remain resilient. While such change has undoubtedly brought uncertainty and risk, it has also presented fresh opportunities.


At the heart of Organizational Resilience lies the ability to adapt—to continually innovate, learn and improve—in order to manage uncertainty and risk and seize those new opportunities. With this goal in mind, the latest Index reveals some encouraging trends: business leaders identify higher levels of awareness of Organizational Resilience, they point to an increasing number of resilience specialists within their businesses and they perceive performance to have improved overall across different areas of Organizational Resilience.



Overall findings – it’s ‘back to basics’

This year, business leaders rank Financial Management first for both importance and performance – whereas last year they considered Reputation to be the most critical core element for their long-term success. The implication is that businesses, under pressure from forces such as global competition and political and economic uncertainty (yes, including the ‘B’ word), are acting cautiously, focusing on immediate concerns such as cashflow, debt levels and investment – perhaps at the expense of less tangible or longer-term issues.


Similarly, a ‘back to basics’ mindset may be why the core element demonstrating greatest improvement in performance is Supplier Management, leaping ten places up the list, in contrast to an equally steep fall for Community Engagement – no doubt seen as ‘nice to have’, rather than a top priority in tough times.


When asked to rate their own resilience, different sectors have widely differing perceptions of themselves which can be seen in the main report.


Focusing on food

On top of the ‘macro’ or pan-industry challenges mentioned above, the global food industry continues to experience huge sector-specific strategic change, much of it led by science and innovation. The industry is grappling with a host of major challenges, from increasing sustainable production practices, to moderating clean label claims on packaging. Striking a balance between the use of eco-friendly packaging, reducing the amount of material used in food packaging, maintaining an extended use by date and reducing food waste on top of market access changes can be increasingly demanding for the most established organizations. In such circumstances, many organizations in the sector can benefit from a deeper insight into just how resilient they are.


BSI’s Organizational Resilience Index shows how food industry leaders rank the core business elements in terms of importance and performance:


Looking purely at performance, food industry leaders feel their organizations are at their best in managing Reputational Risks, outperforming other sectors in this endeavour. No doubt learned from high-profile past crises, notably the spread of food-borne illnesses. They report they are also performing well in Financial Management, Supplier Management and Leadership. So far, so reassuring.


Of more significance, however, is whether these high-performing core elements are also the most important. Here, the news is also good – Reputational Risk is relatively important, and food industry leaders are also performing well in the two most important elements, Leadership and Financial Management. In addition, they are performing creditably (in the top half of the table) in other areas of high importance, namely Awareness and Training and Resource Management.


An area of opportunity for food businesses is Adaptive Capacity. Although sector leaders regard it as fairly important, food businesses collectively admit to bottom-quartile performance in this core element. My view is food businesses need to demonstrate greater proactivity in recognizing and responding rapidly to emerging threats and by the same token, opportunities.


Other areas where food businesses acknowledge relatively weak performance – Information and Knowledge Management, Business Continuity and there are also some concerns around Culture.


Of course, this begs the question of whether food industry leaders have set the right priorities. Should Community Engagement be higher on their agenda? Should Alignment (staff pulling together in the same strategic direction) be a significantly higher priority to bring their own people with them? Would greater emphasis on innovation help to stay or get ahead of the competition? And is there a looming concern that complacency is supplanting Horizon Scanning, meaning a reduced awareness of issues coming towards the business resulting in at best, a setback, or, at worst, the potential to cause lasting damage. Download the report (


Where are your strengths and weaknesses?

To discover your organization’s relative strengths and weaknesses – and how you compare with the organizations engaged with the BSI Organizational Resilience Index – complete the BSI Organizational Resilience Benchmark tool, a simple questionnaire located online at


This tool presents your results in a spider diagram. It allows you to compare how you perceive your performance in Leadership, People, Processes and Product, based on the 16 core elements, against the overall benchmark results.



BSI is dedicated to helping the industry deliver safe, sustainable and socially responsible food. Working with 86,000 organizations of all sizes, in 193 countries worldwide, we improve performance, reduce risk and increase resilience right the way through the supply chain.



Note about Organizational Resilience

Organizational Resilience is “the ability of an organization to anticipate, prepare for, respond and adapt to incremental change and sudden disruptions in order to survive and prosper.” It reaches beyond risk management towards a more holistic view of business health and success.  A resilient organization is one that not merely survives over the long term, but also flourishes - passing the test of time. 

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