As the UK slowly emerges from twelve months lock down, we find ourselves operating in a very different environment, post-Pandemic and post-Brexit .

COVID-19 has exposed the potential risks of long supply chains and inventory sourced far from consumption markets, while the rapid growth of e-commerce has driven radical network redesign, increased reliance on technology and closer data integration. Also, work practices have had to change in line with COVID security requirements to protect employees.

On top of this, the departure of the UK from the European Union has brought a raft of new regulation and procedures for our industry to navigate.

While there are undoubtedly great opportunities in the ‘new world’, there are greater risks too. Some of these risks have been mitigated by holding more stock closer to markets, which is good news for our industry. But other risks are not so easily addressed.

Risk management has become critical to business resilience; regulatory and legislative compliance (and robust insurance cover) are key. From a legal perspective, it is for companies to ensure (and, in the event of litigation, to be able to demonstrate) that they are compliant with required legislation and to put in place appropriate insurance cover for when things go wrong.

Against this background, the insurance market is hardening. Higher numbers of claims from our sector over the last year have pushed up premiums and excesses, with insurance companies increasingly wary as COVID continues to be a threat.

Indeed, new risks and exposures have been highlighted as working practices have changed, exposing gaps in digital capabilities and raising cyber security concerns for organisations and their customers – as well as their insurers.

Businesses need help to identify, manage and, where possible, protect themselves against these new threats. This is why UKWA is introducing an exclusive digital self-assessment system, replacing the previous paper-based inspection and audit. Site visits are clearly impractical under current circumstances, but in any case, the new business environment is characterised by complex and constantly changing laws and regulations, so that only a flexible, dynamic digital solution can ensure members maintain compliance, meet their legal responsibilities and fulfil the standards required by the Association.

The stated mission of UKWA is to help members operate safely, ethically and profitably. Self-assessment supports that mission, enabling members to continually evaluate their operation across all necessary criteria, from process efficiency and employee practices to health & safety and cyber security, driving a culture of continuous improvement and demonstrating responsible risk management to customers and insurance companies alike.

Our advice to all in the sector is to protect their business against future threats, ensure that their risk management is robust and insurance programs are fit for purpose, in order to weather the current storms, improve resilience and continue to thrive in the long term.

Peter Ward

UKWA, CEO

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