It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

I love good literature and Charles Dickens is a favorite, particularly in the Christmas season. However, my thoughts right now are not on A Christmas Carol but on the haunting intro to A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens’s evocative words come to mind as I think about enterprise risk management programs in organizations. We are at a nexus of paths right now that can lead to two very different outcomes for the future of the world, our organizations, and our personal lives.

My question for you: are we focused on the right risks?

The truth is that we are at a critical point in history, a point that can lead to two very different outcomes. In our age of technology advancement and knowledge will this be defined as the ‘age of wisdom?’ Or will it be seen as the ‘age of foolishness?’ The decisions we make and our organization’s make will lead us to a ‘season of light’ or a ‘season of darkness,’ either a ‘spring of hope’ or a winter of despair.’

In my keynotes and presentations, I ask the question: what is our future? 

Are we, as a global society that our organizations are part of, headed toward a Blade Runner future or a Star Trek future? In Blade Runner, you have a dark dystopia of social, ethical, and environmental disasters. In Star Trek, you see a green and prospering world where the environment and society thrive, and there is great social diversity and cooperation across galactic races.

My issue is that many of the enterprise risk management and GRC programs I interact with are limited in scope. If you look at these programs you would think that IT/information risk (e.g, cyber risk, digital risk) are the greatest concern. These are significant concerns, I am not trying to deny that. I cut my teeth in risk management in the 90’s in information security. My point of view is that IT/information risk is a great concern, but environmental risks are a GRAVE concern. And I mean that term literally. But environmental risk seems to be missing from the agenda of the organization’s enterprise risk, operational risk, integrated risk, and GRC agendas.

Look at the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Landscape 2019. The most significant risks, and there are many, are environmental in focus. Where is this on the organization’s risk management agenda? Fortunately, we are seeing some changes here. I applaud the United Kingdom’s FCA/PRA that is now requiring banks and insurance companies, under the Senior Manager’s Regime/Certification Regime (UK SMCR), to have a senior management function defined and accountable to manage the firm’s risk from climate change.

It is disappointing that the leading analyst firms, Gartner and Forrester, do not cover environmental, health and safety risks in their IRM and GRC research. They are ostriches with their heads in the sand. Both of these firms talk about environmental risk and climate change in other parts of their organization, but it does not appear to be on the radar of their core research in IRM and GRC. Reading IRM and GRC reports from these analysts would leave one to think that environmental risk and climate change are not even on the radar and what we only need to focus on is IT/information risk. While Verdantix, in their Green Quadrant on Operational Risk, has a completely different set of solutions, with only two that appear on the Forrester reports and one on the Gartner report. Fortunately, with OCEG and GRC Capability Model, we have taken a true enterprise view of risk that includes environmental, health and safety, quality, and other risks that Gartner and Forrester do not see as part of their IRM and GRC research. How can a research organization in 2020 have a risk management strategy that does not include these areas? How can organizations themselves not be covering environmental risk in their enterprise and operational risk management programs?

CALL TO ACTION: it is time that our GRC/ERM programs include and integrate with ESG (environmental, social, governance), EHS (environmental, health and safety), CSR (corporate social responsibility), and sustainability initiatives. 

The reality is that organizations do need a true enterprise view of risk, and this view must include environmental risk and climate change impact on the business as well as health and safety risks. IT/information risk is critical, but it is time to ensure that environmental risk is on the radar as well in enterprise risk management programs. If we do not address this now our future will be Blade Runner and not Star Trek as we head to a ‘winter of despair’ and not a ‘spring of hope.’


  1. Congratulations. This is a great article and provides so much light to the assessment

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