Navigating security concerns for multinational companies on the brink of war is complex and critical. The increasing global interconnectedness of businesses means companies often operate in areas where political instability and conflict can pose significant threats to their operations, employees, and assets. In this environment, organizations must have a comprehensive strategy to mitigate these risks and ensure safety and business continuity.

It is essential to understand how to formulate an effective strategy to address vital security concerns. The key considerations for multinational companies facing the threat of an imminent war in a region include:

Risk assessment: All organizations must conduct a thorough risk assessment to understand the specific threats in the region. Risk assessment includes evaluating political, economic, social, and security factors which might impact its business. It is no secret when there is a conflict or war between two or many parties/countries, people organize protests or manifestations to express their sentiments locally and in other parts of the world. In certain circumstances, employees may form part of those events, where organizations are compelled to be involved in certain aspects within the legal framework. At times, protests and manifestations could turn into violence, resulting in hate and the destruction of assets directly affecting an organization. Organizations must stay informed about the evolving social and political landscape and make real-time decisions to address emerging security concerns. This assessment helps them understand the specific risks associated with their location and personnel and mitigate them proactively, adapting risk management strategy as needed. In some cases, it is possible to collaborate with local partners and stakeholders to gain insights into the local political climate, security measures, and potential sources of instability. However, planning and conducting due diligence is paramount to avoid pitfalls in a dynamic environment.

Crisis management plan: Develop a robust crisis management plan which includes clear guidelines on responding to various scenarios, ensuring employees’ safety, and protecting critical assets. It’s important to tailor this plan to specific organization’s needs and regularly update it as the security landscape evolves. Enhanced security measures, such as physical security upgrades, cybersecurity protocols, and employee safety and crisis response training, enable organizations to mitigate adverse effects. In certain situations, organizations need to evacuate personnel for safety and well-being. As a part of a broad range of crisis management, it is required to develop well-defined evacuation plans for employees and their families. The plan must include access to secure transportation and safe havens, where possible. As a part of this contingency, organizations must educate employees and their families about these procedures and regularly practice drills to minimize confusion. 

Additionally, consulting with security experts and legal advisors can be beneficial in developing a robust crisis management plan for deteriorating security concerns in the global setting. In this context, the crisis management team serves as the organization’s backbone with continuous monitoring of the situation, adapting crisis management strategy as needed, and staying informed about developments in the region.

Dealing with Growing Sentiments Related to a Conflict or War 

Dealing with growing sentiment related to a conflict can be challenging for a multinational company, as it involves navigating political, social, and ethical considerations. In most cases, people express their sentiments based on individual preferences. It is also important to understand how individuals express their emotions based on cultures, personal backgrounds, and social contexts. Generally, supportive actions such as manifestations supporting one party can be sensitive, especially for multinational companies operating in regions with strong cultural and political divisions. Managing such activities as a neutral entity in an international company requires a balanced approach prioritizing safety, open communication, legal compliance, and political neutrality. However, it’s essential to navigate these situations with sensitivity and respect for the rights and opinions of all stakeholders while also protecting the interests of the business. 

On the other hand, one cannot underscore the strength of social media and its dominance and effects on the organization. In today’s digital age, social media platforms provide a space for people to express their sentiments openly and instantly in many forms. Sharing posts, comments, photos, and videos and engaging in online discussions allows individuals to express their thoughts and emotions to a broad audience. Understanding and respecting these differences is vital for effective communication and meaningful dialogue. As such, managing an organization’s social stance with a strategic crisis management plan to address concerns is crucial. 

Here are some critical considerations for managing such situations:

  • Maintain neutrality: It’s generally advisable for businesses to maintain a neutral stance in political matters. Avoid taking sides or expressing support for any party to minimize the risk of alienating customers or employees from different political affiliations.
  • Respect freedom of expression: Recognize that peaceful protests are a form of free expression, and individuals have the right to voice their opinions. Always encourage respectful and non-disruptive behavior to enhance the safety of all employees and customers. 
  • Security and safety: Prioritize the safety of employees, customers, and assets. Ensure the facilities are secure, and if any activity turns violent or disruptive, work closely with local law enforcement to maintain order and protect your interests. Keep up to date with the political landscape and regional developments. Understanding the context can help the organization anticipate potential issues related to expressing sentiments through various forms and manage their impact on the business more effectively.
  • Open communication and train employees: Maintain open lines of communication with employees. Inform them of any potential protests or activity, the company’s stance on political neutrality, and safety measures in place. To enhance organizational effectiveness, train your employees to handle situations such as protests. Ensure they know how to respond to customers’ inquiries or concerns about the company’s position. 
  • Monitor social media: Monitor social media and news channels to stay informed about upcoming protests. Real-time monitoring can help to prepare in advance and respond effectively. As discussed above, seek Legal guidance and consult with legal experts to understand local laws and regulations regarding protests or collective activity affecting the organization and the rights of employees and customers. As a contingency, if any action becomes a significant issue, plan to incorporate experts to guide the organization’s response and protect the company’s interests. Timely integrating subject matter experts will help the organization navigate any legal complexities.
  • De-escalation: Encourage employees to practice de-escalation techniques when dealing with confrontational situations or angry customers. The goal is to prevent conflicts and maintain a peaceful environment.

Effective Communication During Crises 

Remember, effective communication is essential to managing a crisis, preserving an organization’s reputation, and regaining the trust of stakeholders. Being transparent, empathetic, and responsive can significantly affect how a crisis is perceived and resolved. Here are steps to communicate in a crisis effectively:

  • Designate a spokesperson: Appoint a credible and knowledgeable spokesperson or team to handle communications. They should be trained in crisis communication and understand the company’s values and objectives.
  • Quick response: In a crisis, information can spread rapidly, and silence can lead to speculation and misinformation. It is vital to respond promptly and in line with company policies and acknowledge the issue as soon as legally possible.
  • Assess the situation: Gather accurate and up-to-date information about the crisis, including its scope, impact, and potential consequences. Understand the facts before communicating.
  • Message development: Craft clear, concise, and consistent messages. These messages should address the issue, acknowledge concerns, and convey the action plan taken to resolve the situation.
  • Audience identification: Identify key stakeholders, including employees, customers, the media, regulatory bodies, and the public. Tailor the messages to each group’s needs and concerns.
  • Transparency: Be honest and transparent about what is known and what is still uncertain. Speculation can erode trust, so communicate facts and avoid making premature promises.
  • Empathy and compassion: Show kindness and concern for those affected by the crisis. Acknowledge affected personnel’s feelings and fears and offer support where possible.
  • Consistent channels: Choose appropriate communication channels to reach the intended target audiences. These may include press releases, social media, email, website updates, and sometimes press conferences. Also, encourage feedback and questions from stakeholders. Provide channels for them to ask questions and express concerns.
  • Control the narrative: Actively engage with the media with a designated person. Be the primary source of information to ensure accurate information is available for stakeholders and disseminated to avoid misconceptions. 
  • Legal and regulatory compliance: Ensure communication complies with legal or regulatory requirements, especially sensitivity and information release.
  • Employee communication: Prioritize internal communication. Keep employees informed about the crisis, its impact on the company, and the expectations. 
  • Crisis team coordination and social media monitoring: Ensure all crisis management team members are well-coordinated and working from the same set of facts and messaging. Keep a close eye on social media for emerging issues and engage with the online community to address concerns and correct any misinformation. 
  • Training: Train key personnel in crisis communication strategies, including handling difficult questions, addressing the media, and maintaining composure under pressure. 
  •  Learn from the crisis and document the process: After the crisis has passed, conduct a thorough evaluation of your communication efforts. Identify what worked well and the areas for improvement for better crisis communication in the future. Maintain records of all communication efforts, including emails, press releases, social media posts, and meeting notes. This documentation can be valuable for post-crisis analysis.

Travel Safety for Individuals in Crises 

Travel safety-specific actions can vary greatly depending on the location and circumstances of the conflict. It’s essential to adhere to local authorities’ advice and prioritize safety. If a person in such a situation, seek guidance from experts, local authorities, and relevant organizations who can provide tailored advice based on the current conditions. If you’re an expatriate or foreign resident, contact your embassy or consulate for guidance and potential evacuation plans. Remember, each crisis is unique and safety measures can vary. Always prioritize your safety, even if it means altering your travel plans. Here are some of the considerations about travel safety:

  • Stay informed: Keep abreast of local news and government travel advisories to stay informed about potential risks in your destination.
  • Plan: Start planning your move well in advance. The more time you have, the better you can organize and avoid last-minute stress.
  • Emergency contacts: Have local emergency numbers, your country’s embassy contacts information, and relevant consulate information on hand.
  • Share your itinerary: Share your travel plans with someone you trust so they can check on your well-being.
  • Register with the embassy: If you’re in a high-risk area, consider registering with your country’s embassy or consulate.
  • Emergency kit: Carry a basic emergency kit with essential supplies like water, non-perishable food, first-aid, flashlight, and important documents.
  • Local customs: Be aware of and respectful of local customs and laws to avoid unnecessary trouble.
  • Avoid high-risk areas: Avoid regions with known unrest and follow curfews or travel restrictions. 
  • Blend in: Dress like a local, avoid flashy items and keep a low profile to reduce the risk of being a target.
  • Communication: Have a working phone, charger, and consider getting a local SIM card for better connectivity.
  • Evacuation plan: Know escape routes and potential safe havens and have a plan in case you need to leave quickly.
  • Trust your instincts: Leave the area or situation immediately if something doesn’t feel right.
  • Medical needs: Bring any necessary medications and know the location of local medical facilities.
  • Travel insurance: Invest in comprehensive travel insurance that covers emergencies.

In conclusion, it is a necessity to continuously monitor the situation and stay informed about the evolving geopolitical landscape. Organizations need to adapt to changing threats and test the validity of their strategy regularly while making real-time decisions to address emerging security concerns. This approach is a model for multinational companies operating in regions with similar challenges.

Lastly, effectively addressing security concerns for multinational companies in regions facing imminent war requires a comprehensive and dynamic approach that prioritizes the safety of employees, the protection of assets, and the continuity of operations while also adhering to local laws and regulations. It’s a challenging endeavor, but with proper planning and vigilance, businesses can navigate these complex geopolitical landscapes and mitigate potential risks proactively. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suminda Jayasundera

Suminda Jayasundera is a former military officer in the rank of lieutenant colonel. During his illustrious military career, Jayasundera has held many important appointments including a tour of duty in the United Nations. After his retirement, he entered the corporate sector, where he excelled in crisis management, global security management, and business continuity management. He holds a master’s degree in defense management and is a graduate of Army Command & General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kans. He acquired further education from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in emergency management, business continuity, and Federal Emergency Management Agency. Jayasundera holds professional certifications in business continuity management, cybersecurity, risk, and compliance management.

6 Ways to Leverage LinkedIn and Why It’s Important
Subscribe to the Business Resilience DECODED podcast – from DRJ and Asfalis Advisors – on your favorite podcast app. New...
READ MORE >
Safeguarding the Sharing Economy
Verifying Your Vendors: Less Risk, Greater Reward Most people are familiar with business-to-consumer (B2C) sharing economy companies, such as Uber,...
READ MORE >
A Roadmap from Business Continuity to Operational Resilience
Business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) services are among the most critical services in financial institutions. Of course, these...
READ MORE >
Adapting to Change: Strategies to Mitigate the Impact of Rising Flood Risks
Flood risks are increasing globally and pose a threat to business operations. Between 2018 and 2023, flood damage expenses in...
READ MORE >