Skift Take

Many company crisis teams with a presence in the region are addressing issues that today go way beyond the logistical challenges of evacuations.

As the number of refugees escaping the war in Ukraine tops four million, surpassing even the United Nations’ worst-case prediction, many businesses operating in the region are working out their next set of contingency plans.

The number of “what if” questions is on the rise, partly because of the uncertainty surrounding ongoing peace talks.

“Over the last 48 hours, there has been a marked change of tone from Russian state-affiliated media outlets, indicating that the Kremlin may actually be serious about changing its objectives,” noted international security company Global Guardian on Wednesday. However, it said Russia will use this time to regroup, reorganize and resupply.

Now one crisis specialist is advising corporate clients on a range of issues, ultimately designed to alleviate stress levels in the face of an expanded geopolitical crisis.

“From our sources, there’s no let-up. It’s more a repositioning, not a withdrawal,” said Julian Moro, senior vice president of security solutions, at risk management company International SOS, which has had a team in Ukraine since January 26.

“While many organizations reduced their exposure to Ukraine, they are thinking about their other populations. What do we tell our employees in other locations to show we are thinking about it, that we have done some contingency planning.”

Perception Versus Reality

That planning has become more difficult for many companies after their crisis teams battled the pandemic for long periods. “There are two things about Covid. One positive is that a lot of companies now have crisis teams, whereas they didn’t pre-Covid,” Moro said. “On the flip side, many crisis teams are exhausted after two years of the pandemic.”

International SOS is now advising company bosses and crisis management teams, where perceptions and emotions rather than the reality are coming into play. It’s talking about Russia’s weapon systems, the distances involved, and what’s the doctrine of the Russians when they are in conflict.

“I feel like we’re helping them manage their anxiety in adjacent countries, about the likeness of an escalation, what would that look like, what are the different scenarios,” Moro said.

Meanwhile, more work around mental health support is emerging, with many of International SOS’s clients requesting multi-lingual crisis hotlines for emotional support, for evacuees, their families and staff members.

Global Guardian, meanwhile, continues to operate in Ukraine evacuating employees of American companies and their families. It has so far helped almost 10,000 people to safety, more recently focusing on retrieving valuable physical assets left behind by U.S. companies.

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Tags: business travel, corporate travel, international sos, russia, travel management companies, ukraine

Photo credit: Many refugees are being welcomed in Poland. Maksym Harbar / Unsplash