The great realignment: acting globally, surviving locally
Geopolitics will be more diversified and dynamic in 2024 and businesses that don’t keep up will falter. As countries realign and reorient, global businesses will need to pay attention to the individual interests of a wider range of stakeholders. Localisation will intensify, protectionism will increase.
Middle power nations will provide a counterbalance to great power rivalry and look to reroute trade along new axes. Companies that get ahead of the geopolitical curve will be more resilient to shocks, wars and unrest; companies able to localise their operations will be successful and more compliant. To stay global, win local.
Uncertainty paralysis: US politics and China’s economy
China's management of its economic downshift will be the most significant global economic risk in 2024. Meanwhile, US presidential politics threaten to upend foreign policy and domestic stability, with global consequences. US-China relations may enter a holding pattern in 2024, but companies are right to wonder if this is just the calm before a geopolitical storm. The risks for businesses and nations in the coming year centre on huge uncertainty on how US priorities might change and how China will steer its economy. Some companies will wait to see how the chips fall; others will roll the dice.
Climate disruption: the global threat multiplier
Disruption wrought by climate change will be the principal threat multiplier of 2024. We anticipate the hottest year on record, making the confluence of simultaneous weather events around the world increasingly likely. A huge operational challenge in their own right, climate events will bring increasingly diverse impacts ranging from supply-chain disruption, uncontrolled migration to the increased spread of disease. Critically, climate disruption will continue to exacerbate ongoing challenges related to conflicts, political instability, economic protectionism and many others. The need for many businesses to catch up on their climate adaptation needs has never been more pressing.
Trust deficit: digital integrity frays
In 2024, companies across the world will be challenged by a paradigm shift in the integrity and resilience of emerging technologies. Cyber attacks enabled by and targeting AI systems, the reduction in human intervention in the digital ecosystem and complexifying regulatory pressures worldwide will collide. With continued global tensions and conflict in 2024, the targeting of the integrity of data leveraged by autonomous systems will normalise, challenging our ability to detect attacks and trust new technologies. There will be an increase in the volume and intensity of attacks by nation-states, criminals, and activists on the systems underpinning our digital world.
Risk management overload: crisis everywhere
In 2024, the number and diversity of crisis events anticipated in our Top Risks will test the resilience of risk management functions on a new level. The coming year will likely see a high-water mark in crisis complexity and disruptiveness, continuing a trend that companies have faced for the past few years. The feedback loop between drivers of disruption and the disruption they cause will intensify. Economic pressure and extreme weather will feed into more disruptive elections, state fragility, conflict, mutating cyber, digital and physical risks, geopolitical realignment and mushrooming regulation. 2024 will be the year of the risk management reboot.