The last few years have proven how crises can disrupt business: global supply chains upturned by the pandemic, soaring energy costs caused by the struggles in Ukraine, climate-related disasters, or the recent earthquakes across Türkiye and neighbouring Syria that served as a tragic reminder of the ongoing risk of natural disasters.
As a global company engaged in major construction and infrastructure projects, Limak is focused on identifying and protecting against such risks by developing business resilience. For many companies, business resilience has become a much more overarching concept and an essential part of strategic planning. The key focus is now on our abilities not only to survive a disaster, but to adapt to changes in the environment, and be ready to play a proactive role in ensuring that others can do the same.
Above all, I see business resilience as a continuous mindset that should be integrated into every business decision. As leaders, we should continuously question the risks involved in every action and how we can prepare for unintended consequences. Regular scenario planning keeps the possibility of crisis on the agenda, and ensures the constant refinement of the response plan.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down, we saw offices close overnight, yet workers worldwide persevered. To cultivate resilience in a workforce, it is essential that employees feel supported, motivated and equipped to overcome obstacles. Core principles of empowerment, trust and accountability help to develop this culture. We must also train and invest in the next generation, just as we do in our flagship program, Global Engineer Girls (GEG). GEG works to inspire young women and girls into engineering and equip them with the skills needed to be resilient leaders of our future. The program provides girls with education, mentorship and career opportunities in Türkiye, Kuwait, North Macedonia, and Kosovo.
The volatility of the business environment in recent years leaves no excuse for inadequate resilience strategy and crisis planning. These are now reputational issues, because any company found seriously lacking in its response to crisis will see its reputation suffer. Equally, companies that demonstrate resilience in crises gain the trust of business partners, customers and all external stakeholders. Resilience strategy is, therefore, a core governance responsibility, that senior management and boards must address as part of their due diligence responsibilities.
How does a business create a culture with resilience at its core?
From a strategic perspective, a good place to start is with the World Economic Forum’s definition of the three key business priorities in building resilience: recognizing vulnerabilities, finding the courage to change thinking, behaviours and operations; and mobilizing resources.
When a business takes this honest and proactive approach to build resilience, it will rapidly become a core company value and enable management to see the opportunities offered by change – even when change is imposed by crisis. Organisations that can build resilience to the core of their identity will naturally develop agility in their work and internal processes, streamlining decision-making, establishing clear lines of communication and accountability, and empowering teams to be decisive.
A characteristic that is critical to building resilience is diversity. A workforce and leadership that is truly diverse – across gender, race, and socioeconomic background– will prove far more adept at comprehensive resilience planning and acting effectively in times of crisis. At Limak, our actions to ensure diversity in our business culture and workforce were recognised in 2022 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Equality Seal. We are the first company in the UNDP region for Europe and Central Asia and in Türkiye to have achieved this distinction, and I hope to be joined by many more because I firmly believe that gender equality strengthens the resilience of both businesses and society at large.
As well as positioning business resilience as a top governance responsibility, it is essential to see it as adding value rather than an additional cost. As Chairperson of Limak, I’ve made it a priority to clearly communicate the importance of resilience as an asset and demonstrate it in our ability to adapt to change, make informed decisions swiftly and operationalize empowered teams.
Finally, building resilience requires understanding that every organization is part of a broader economic and social system. Aligning resilience goals with the workforce, external partners, and local communities creates a strong and resilient network that helps withstand crises. With external crises becoming more disruptive and frequent, mitigating risks has never been more pressing. The organizations that embed resilience in strategy and operations will successfully adapt, thrive and help shape the future landscape.
About The Author
Ebru Özdemir is chairwoman of Limak Group, a conglomerate with interests including construction, infrastructure, energy, technology and tourism. She has over 15 years of experience in project financing and development and public-private partnership projects. Her expertise led to her election as a member of the business advisory board of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Public-Private Partnerships in 2014.
Ebru founded Global Engineer Girls, an international philanthropic initiative that aims to inspire the next generation of female engineers by increasing women’s participation and access to STEM fields.