In this episode of our BryghtCast edition of the Managing Uncertainty Podcast for the week of September 23rd, 2019, Bryghtpath Principal & CEO Bryan Strawser and Consultant Bray Wheeler take a look at three current risks and upcoming events:
- National Hurricane Center: Tropical Storm Karen
- Al-Jazeera: UN General Assembly 2019: All the latest updates
- NY Times: Protesting Climate Change, Young People Take to Streets in a Global Strike
Bryan Strawser: Hello and welcome to the Managing Uncertainty Podcast BryghtCast edition for the week of September 23rd, 2019. I’m Bryan Strawser, principal and CEO here at Bryghtpath.
Bray Wheeler: I’m Bray Wheeler, consultant at Bryghtpath.
Bryan Strawser: And we’re going to get started with our three topics for the week. I’m going to let Bray start off with tropical storm Karen.
Bray Wheeler: Tropical storm Karen, another one that’s brewing out there in the Atlantic. Over the weekend and into this morning, the national hurricane center gave some updated tracking, as well as updates on what they expect that storm to do. I know we talked about last week that it’s pretty active in the Atlantic, pretty active in the Pacific. That trend continues. But Karen, in particular, which is now a tropical storm, they expect to grow into hurricane strength. Unfortunately, it’s tracking over a lot of the areas in the Caribbean that have already been well hit, in particular, Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
Bray Wheeler: They do expect that to reach hurricane status here pretty shortly, in the next day or two. That track has the potential to hit the U.S. coast. It’s another storm that’s out there, could certainly cross over the Bahamas again. That tracking doesn’t look likely at the moment, but we all know those things can change. But this one is, they do think, strong enough that it could-
Bryan Strawser: Might sustain its way through?
Bray Wheeler: … sustain its way all the way up to the U.S. mainland. So.
Bryan Strawser: And where is this, potentially, if it does come to the mainland, are there any landfall prediction areas yet?
Bray Wheeler: Nothing yet. The closest it’ll get, it won’t even reach the U.S. by Friday. I imagine as we get later on into this week-
Bryan Strawser: We’ll get a better view.
Bray Wheeler: … we’ll get a better picture. But right now, it could be anywhere from Florida, up through Virginia, is what it looks like. So Carolinas are probably dead center, at least, if current course-
Bryan Strawser: It’s pretty far out though, for that kind of forecast.
Bray Wheeler: Pretty far out.
Bryan Strawser: What companies should be doing right now is monitoring the storm, watching updates from the National Hurricane Center. I would not go in for crazy projections from local news. Go to the source. Look at the National Hurricane Center maps, read their forecasts. They do a Facebook live now, and I believe they have an audio podcast you can listen to, if you want to hear their forecasters talk and provide more context than the written forecast.
Bray Wheeler: Yeah, because really all they have right now is a confidence that these tropical-storm-force winds, rainfall, flooding, mudslides, is really only Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands on Tuesday. So, that’s really all they’re confident in. But as Bryan said, pay attention to the National Hurricane Center. Just take some time to review your plans, review your processes, if you haven’t already done so as we’ve been talking. Just arm yourself because we’re still in hurricane season. It doesn’t officially end for another month and a half, but we all know that that can go longer, so-
Bryan Strawser: That’s right. Might as well be ready.
Bryan Strawser: So the next item of discussion is if you’re a new Yorker, everyone’s favorite event to deal with in New York, which is the United Nations General Assembly meeting. This is the meeting, the kickoff of the General Assembly session every year where something like three-quarters of the world’s heads of state or heads of government come to New York to make major speeches as principals in front of the United Nations General Assembly. It’s a tradition that the President of the United States is almost always a speaker along with almost, I think about three-quarters of the world’s leaders speak in front of the General Assembly.
Bryan Strawser: It is a security nightmare because all of them come with their own security details and motorcades and the U.S. Secret Service in the United States Diplomatic Protection Service, part of the state department, are really helping to manage all of this with NYPD and the UN police who actually control what’s going on inside the United Nations complex there on the river in New York City. Bray, what’s going on in New York?
Bray Wheeler: Traffic.
Bryan Strawser: Yee-haw to all of that.
Bray Wheeler: Your traffic report for New York is congested. No, really for New York right now, I mean there’s a lot of… for businesses that are in there and they’re probably grown accustomed to this because it happens every year and so probably the amount of impact is pretty minimal. But some of the topical issues that are kind of coming out there that companies and organizations should be kind of keyed into is one, and today they kind of kicked it and had a kind of a pre-meeting around climate, and that’s gotten a lot of media coverage, globally, around what that is. A lot of the-
Bryan Strawser: Yeah, there was the climate strike protests over the weekend here in Minnesota. It’s several thousand people turn out for the one that was at the Minnesota state capital.
Bray Wheeler: There’s one in DC today that’s already prompted several arrests and a lot of congestion and disruption there just from a logistical and transportation standpoint, but really that topic, in particular, you know, comes with all sorts of kind of baggage here domestically in the US but just from a topical standpoint, it’s a lot of the global countries are looking to kind of reposition that as kind of a Paris Accord kind of part two conversation. And the US has largely been kind of sidelined a little bit in that conversation probably both on purpose and on both sides. So that just, in particular, that’s going to get a lot of media coverage. There’s a lot of different topics they’re talking through that will probably carry over into a lot of the speeches.
Bray Wheeler: Brazil’s president is typically kind of traditionally the first speaker at the UN and so there’s an expectation that the Amazon topic, Amazon rainforest burning topic will come into play there. But that will just, there’ll be a lot of discussions and a lot that seems to be the big theme for them. The other kind of major theme at the moment is around Iran in the Middle East. I’m certainly off the kind of Saudi attack as well as the British oil tankers that Iran has seized and kind of an update on that front. So Iran today has actually released that British oil tanker, said it’s free to leave whenever it would like.
Bryan Strawser: Finally.
Bray Wheeler: Funny enough, kind of right before the UN General Assembly. So it’s free to leave whenever it would like.
Bryan Strawser: Finally.
Bray Wheeler: Funny enough, kind of right before the UN General Assembly. So what’s interesting about that is the US has greatly restricted Iran’s foreign minister’s movement within New York, which isn’t, we kind of… We have some control over a lot of that in terms of their movement around New York and where they can go and how they can come in.
Bray Wheeler: But once we get kind of on UN grounds, they’re free to kind of go where they want, but we’ve greatly restricted them, which puts them in a position to be confronted by a lot of different countries, representatives, things like that to kind of force the issue in the kind of the conversation there. So that kind of Iran topic, which bleeds into kind of a broader conversation around that Middle East conflict that’s going on seems to be the other kind of key elements that’ll play out there. So.
Bryan Strawser: So it’s always kind of the… At the UN General Assembly when the heads of state are there, it’s always kind of the… There’s a little bit of proxy combat by speech that goes on, on stage. Right? I mean we saw many years ago during George W. Bush’s presidency he was on… He spoke before the UN General Assembly and then I believe the next speaker was the then-dictator from Venezuela who got up and immediately talked about the smell of sulfur and the fact that devil had just been on the stage and there’s just a lot of interesting back and forth and in proxy conflict.
Bryan Strawser: Will we see something like that between Iran and Iran in Saudi Arabia or are either speaking?
Bray Wheeler: Probably, it does sound like they’re speaking. The notable ones that aren’t speaking, that seem to be garnering the most attention is Russian President Vladimir Putin is not attending, he typically doesn’t attend. Xi Jinping from China is not attending this year, typically doesn’t attend but has in the past. But then Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s also kind of a lightning rod for these kinds of conversations to make sure that, you know, he’s getting his jabs or his points across in his speeches is not attending kind of based on his of domestic-
Bryan Strawser: Election situation-
Bray Wheeler: Domestic politics. So he is always kind of one to kind of spur some conversation he won’t be attending. So I think it leaves a lot of room for some of those less outspoken voices or less notable voices to get some air time.
Bray Wheeler: So I think certainly people are, are kind of keyed up for Brazil’s president to kind of talk about the Amazon. Donald Trump is speaking next and then after that, it’ll go down the list. So there definitely probably will be some conversation around that and certainly in the security council meetings and things like that that both these issues, as well as others, will kind of come to the forefront.
Bryan Strawser: And then, I believe our last issue for discussion on this week’s episode is the climate change crisis, so to speak, and the climate change protest that happened over the weekend.
Bray Wheeler: Yes, we touched on some of that, but yeah, really that the climate change forum and conversation are getting a lot of attention right now as the UN is convening. The kind of teenage-
Bryan Strawser: Greta?
Bray Wheeler: Poster girl, Greta Thunberg, I believe is how you pronounce her name. Apologies if that’s a mistake, but she has garnered quite a bit of attention today. She actually spoke-
Bryan Strawser: She spoke with the General Assembly, right? At the forum?
Bray Wheeler: Yeah, at this climate forum today. There have also been some memes of her as President Trump walks into the room and things like that. So she’s definitely getting a lot of attention. She spurred a lot of support across the globe. Certainly here domestically we’re seeing a lot of things in the US in terms of protest that’s happening, as Bryan mentioned in Minneapolis this past weekend, in DC today or on the country, but also internationally. In particular in Europe where she’s from. But there’s just a lot of… There’s is going to be a lot of conversation around that and a lot of, I think greater pressure for companies to start kind of reevaluating some of their stances where they’re at, if kind of this conversation trend continues that there’s going to be a bigger conversation likely coming that companies and organizations are probably going to have to start keying up for, more so than probably they have in the past.
Bryan Strawser: Well I think you hit upon something that we don’t always think about in these situations and that is that the protests and events this past weekend going into the rest of the week had been primarily aimed at government about them taking action and, you know, passing regulation and moving towards a more renewable energy focus future. But like other activist causes that we’ve seen, I would predict that this also shifts towards how do we apply pressure to organizations bomb to reform their own policies and approaches to move towards renewable energy and other factors because they can get there faster and they are more respondent to pressure than the government is. The government’s usually the lagging organization here. Right?
Bray Wheeler: Wait until the next vote.
Bryan Strawser: Well, wait until the next vote. Yeah. I mean by all predictions, the youth vote in 2020 the United States is going to be epic in terms of the size of the vote, the number of voters that will be coming out and particularly in comparison to to Gen X and Gen Y, which are relatively small in terms of the generation compared to the Baby Boomers and the the Z-ers, or whatever. There are multiple names for Gen Z, but I think that as we’re seeing in other elements and as I think we’ve seen come out in some polling data more recently, the Z-ers want companies to be involved in social change.
Bryan Strawser: They see companies as agents of that. They make pie decisions based upon social involvements and that we could see them put pressure on companies to act on climate change, gun control. I mean there’s a whole host of topics that I think have come up more recently around this. They’re not afraid to act on that. Whereas opposed, you know, people… I’m an X-er. People of my generation are much less likely to make a decision about where to shop based on politics.
Bray Wheeler: Right. One, I just think that their… It makes sense, too, because that generation, that population, is growing up seeing and hearing and things like that, you know, there, there are big issues in terms of the climate, the environment, the way that businesses kind of package and process and build and manufacture and grow and expand and cities and how people’s, you know, habits and things like that… They’re very aware of what’s happening there, and they are a big enough block that they can start to raise their voice and start to put some pretty good pressure on companies. Maybe not right away. They obviously don’t have kind of the economic boost, to kind of challenge the… They don’t have the buying power to sustain that right now.
Bryan Strawser: Not yet.
Bray Wheeler: They’re coming. And I think there’s a lot of Gen Y, Gen X, things like that, that would kind of go along for the ride a little bit. You know, certainly there are ones that would oppose it, too. But you know, I just think it’s that topic of conversation and not just because it’s kind of at the forefront of the General Assembly, but it’s kind of prompted that issue for discussion, as companies and organizations in general really need to start thinking about their habits, the way that they operate, things like that.
Bray Wheeler: It’s probably not an immediate change. That’s not realistic, but you know that pressure is coming and however you feel about the topic, we all like cleaner air, we all like cleaner water, you know? So it’s one of those things where it’s not the worst thing to start thinking about that and preparing yourself to kind of be at the forefront. Probably not a space you want to be too much of a fast follower in, as we’ve said before. But you know, it’s definitely a conversation that’s not going away in comparison to kind of all the other distractions that are happening and all the other topics that are garnering attention, too.
Bryan Strawser: Right.
Bray Wheeler: It’s a major topic now.
Bryan Strawser: Well and I think what I would add to that is just I think the practicality for companies is if you’re not taking a stance today, that as you think about managing your organization’s reputation and the kind of monitoring and intelligence monitoring you might be doing, these kinds of social issues, climate change, gun control, others, it’s time to start considering that as a part of your reputation strategy. I’m not advocating for taking a position either way on any of these issues, but I think companies want… Companies should be monitoring what’s being said about them in relation to these… Think about the top 15, 20 social issues that are going on.
Bray Wheeler: Yep.
Bryan Strawser: Where pressure’s starting to come to businesses. Companies should start monitoring around those specific issues when it comes to reputational intelligence.
Bray Wheeler: And if it’s not on your kind of top 10, top 15 list, you should probably start putting it on there or at least having that conversation to explore getting it on there. Because, as Bryan said, there’s a lot of things you can do without even having to be public about what it is that you’re doing. And there’s, you know, there’s nothing you have to do today other than start having a conversation and start thinking about how your organization fits into that narrative.
Bryan Strawser: That’s it for this edition, the BryghtCast edition of the Managing Uncertainty podcast. We’ll be back with another episode next week.