A forecast of next year’s biggest business risk warns of growing unrest triggered by the economic crisis and suggests monitoring social media for trends

Control Risks Risk Map 2012

Cyber threats, intensifying political unrest and Black Swan events will set the risk agenda for 2012, Control Risks said in its anual Risk Map.

Current economic challenges will drive social protest and increasing scrutiny of corporate practices, the report anticipates.

International businesses should expect global growth prospects to remain unpromising due to the European debt situation.

The crisis, driving food and fuel prices to further rise, might exacerbate intense social and economic tensions throughout the year, warned Control Risks.

Cyber threats were mentioned as the second largest risk for the year ahead. Control Risks does not just refer to cyber attacks form criminal and hacktivist groups, but also the social media risk.

Social media will continue to be used as a communication platform during political turmoil, like it has been a tool for the Occupy Wall Street Movement or the Arab Spring.

Richard Fenning, CEO of Control Risks, said: “Companies will need to distinguish between malicious and hostile acts versus popular expressions of legitimate protest against authentic inequalities. This requires a greater understanding and interaction with stakeholders beyond shareholders, from local communities to governments; grasping the intense scrutiny they face through social media (…) and the potential for cyber-security and online attacks.”

Fenning went on to explain that the third predicted risk for 2012 is Black Swan events, such as natural catastrophes, which organisations have been struggling to cope with throughout 2011.

“The one indisputable lesson from 2011 is that planning for low-probability but high-impact events must be part of any strategic forecast. Organisations must develop ever more robust strategies to assess and mititgate exposure to changing security, political, social, operational and reputational risks.”

The Risk Map 2012 advises businesses to tackle these risks via greater monitoring of social media and through being “more accountable to local communities and governments”.