UK business leaders see economic uncertainty and changing consumer demand as their greatest challenge

The UK’s Water sector has been identified as the sector most resilient to future disruption, and Retail as the least. This is according to research by professional services company GHD.

Jonathan Edwards, EMEA market development leader at GHD, said: “The results of our first ever Disruption Index have highlighted several points that are imperative to ensuring future resilience across all sectors as we see crisis and disruption management becoming a key part of sustainable business.

”There can be no question that the consumer has never had more information or power. Our research has confirmed that the changing behaviours and expectations of consumers presents the biggest risk to resilience across industries. If businesses don’t start designing for the user first and foremost, they will get left behind at best and fail at worst.”

This research was carried out through the following four lenses, all of which are key to enabling a business or industry to be truly resilient in the long term: Customers, Business, Assets and Innovation.

Disruption Index rankings:

SectorOverall ranking


1 (most resilient to future disruption)

Information & Communication










Chemical & Pharmaceuticals


Financial Services


Real Estate





11 (least resilient to future disruption)

Key findings:

  • 77% of business leaders consider their organisation to be prepared for disruption in the future.
  • 80% of business leaders believe their company has proved more resilient than expected, given the challenges of the past two years.
  • 63% of business leaders believe their industry has adapted quickly to Covid-19 and changing customer demands over the past two years.
  • Business leaders see economic uncertainty as the factor that will cause the biggest disruption to their organisation in the next 10 years, followed by changing consumer demands and COVID-19 (or other such pandemics).
  • Changing consumer demands is a considerable vulnerability across the majority of industries and is one of the top risks for the Energy, Rail, Financial Services and Retail sectors.

Edwards continued: “The need to innovate is clear. 5G is a game changer for all sectors and the Internet of Things can be rolled out in a whole new way. However, innovation isn’t just about technology, but about changing ways of working and how businesses engage with employees and consumers.

”Ultimately, businesses that are able to stay on top of the change and provide increasingly new insights will be the ones that succeed.

“Then, of course, there is the need for businesses to fully embed ESG into their operations. In addition to this, the pathway to decarbonisation is mission critical for senior leaders now, and organisations need to have a clear net zero strategy in place in order to build a resilient future.

”Never before has there been such an opportunity for industries to rethink every facet of their being. If it’s not quite a blank slate, it’s the closest thing we’ve had – and will have – for some time to come.

”UK industry needs to take that step forward to create greater balance of connectivity, resilience, productivity and investability to ensure a strong future for the British economy.”

The UK Disruption Index analysed the risk of disruption to 11 key sectors - Rail, Highways, Water, Energy, Chemical & Pharmaceuticals, Construction, Real Estate, Retail, Manufacturing, Financial Services, and Information & Communication - through a combination of independent research, internal consultation data, and a survey of 2002 UK consumers and hundreds of business decision makers.