Are You Facing the Possibility of Protest?
Many businesses now are facing the potential of being targeted by protest groups. There were multiple disruptive yet lawful protests country wide during 2019 with significant disruption to businesses and services.
The financial cost of protest is huge. The Extinction Rebellion protests in April, 2019 cost the Metropolitan Police £16 million (Davies, G. 2019). The private sector is also affected, Hong Kong saw a 6.6% drop in retail sales as a result of the protest action seen last year. (Wong & Edgecliffe-Johnson, 2019).
Employees can be adversely affected by protest especially where the protest has been perceived as aggressive or become unlawful.
Business reputation can be affected by poor press/ social media from inappropriate response to protest. There are many examples where protest has engendered sympathy through appearance of overzealous response.
Advice for Businesses
Advice for business on how to mitigate resultant issues due to protest action is available. A proactive approach to ensure business resilience and reduction of potential costs should a priority for a business who are at risk of protest action.
Invaluable actions which can ensure business resilience include:
- Engage the services of specialist advice
- Provide training/ engage specialist training provider about protest which would include the law, rights of both workers, employees and protesters, background of protest, actions to be taken – upskill current workforce to deal with protest
- Ensure protest is considered as part of business continuity plan and risk management strategy
- Where there is a direct threat, have an ‘on the ground’ adviser or team to assist
- Embed trained professionals into the front line team
- Detailed risk assessment
Often success of the taking the above advice is what is NOT seen and NOT heard.
- No adverse press or social media
- No protest at a company’s HQ or premises
- No adverse effect on business continuity: business as usual
- No impact to staff or workers
When success is what is NOT seen, often questions are raised whether specialist advice and training was needed in the first place.
Prevention is key. Protest groups do a lot of research about the target of their protest. They are well informed and intelligent. They are passionate about their belief so they too, will be risk assessing the planned action. Often proactive and specialist advice and training that will put off a protest group where they believe there will no useful media attention to get their cause heard or where the effect on the protest group will be harmful to their own cause.
Advisers and training are too expensive
The cost of initial proactive advice and training is a lot more cost effective than a potential unlawful protest or potential eviction of protest both in reputational or economic terms. Protest evictions from private land or properties can cost over £20 000 per day in fees. Prevention early on is key.
Long term targeting: where companies have not invested in advice and training, they can be seen as weak target and become the subject of long and protracted protests which affect business resilience, cost and reputational damage.
Protests especially when they become unlawful, can have an effect on the well being of your workers especially those who are at reception or at a front door. Prevention of protest can potentially reduce distress to employees and absence.
Our security provider will sort it out
Do not assume your security provider has had the correct training to deal with protest. It is not part of the initial SIA training required to hold a license and no requirement unless specified by a client for a security provider to provide this training. An organisation should be asking for guards trained in how to deal with protest or provide this training through an approved supplier.
 Davies, G. (2019) Extinction Rebellion protests cost police £37million and let to other investigations being shut. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/10/22/extinction-rebellion-cost-37m-police-led-investigations-closed/
 Wong. S & edgecliffe-Johnson (2019) Businesses in Hong Kong count cost of protests https://www.ft.com/content/1d082f54-b8f4-11e9-8a88-aa6628ac896c