Worse, the Suez traffic jam came on top of the unparalleled impact of the global pandemic, with lockdowns causing massive growth in demand for home-working technology, in turn spurring shortages in critical technologies such as microchips.
As if that were not enough, rising pressures in the form of new regulations, civil society expectations, employee demands and consumer pressures are forcing business leaders to pay much greater attention to issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, labor standards, modern slavery, and, wider still, new expectations around equality, diversity and inclusion.
This complex, interlinked set of market shifts had been building for some time, but like all exponential developments it has been a case of global changes (to quote Silicon Valley guru Tim O’Reilly, quoting Hemingway) moving “gradually, then suddenly”.
Our own Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry, launched in 2018, has underscored a trend that we summarise as the 3Rs. Ever since the travails of companies such as Shell and Nike in the 1990s, in the early days of the latest round of globalization, we have seen a frantic scramble to ensure that supply chains are responsible, transparent and accountable.
In parallel, waves of standards have attempted to bring order to the chaos, but if even brands like Tony’s Chocolonely – founded explicitly to produce ethical chocolate in an industry plagued by evidence of modern slavery – can get into trouble over child labor, as it did recently, then it is clear that pretty much every brand in the world still has some way to go.
Unfortunately for business leaders seeking a quiet life, the responsibility agenda is still expanding, with issues like data privacy increasingly energetic. At the same time, we see growing evidence that two other R-words are also now coming into play—resilience and regeneration.