The FM Global Supply Chain Risk Study, surveyed 100 financial executives at large multinational corporations.
The results show there is significant concern among companies for the potential of natural disaster-related supply chain disruptions in China, along with a growing acceptance that firms must be more diligent in addressing their exposures in the region.
Ken Davey, senior vice president at FM Global, said: "A secure and resilient supply chain creates a competitive advantage. Delivering products and services when others can't, results in satisfied customers and opportunities to secure new ones. A fragile supply chain is clearly a competitive disadvantage if a disruption occurs."
China is exposed to significant natural threats, including earthquakes, windstorms, floods and tsunamis. The FM Global study underscores the fact that supply chains in the region are more likely to face business disruption by a natural disaster, particularly because China has not yet fully embraced many of the risk management practices followed in Europe and the United States.
The research uncovered that twice as many companies surveyed (86% versus 43%) say they are more reliant on China as part of their supply chain for their key product lines than they are on Japan, 83% of companies surveyed consider supply chain disruption a moderate to great risk, 95% of companies reliant on China for their supply chain are concerned about natural disaster-related disruptions and 65% of companies surveyed are considering "increasing collaboration with suppliers on mitigating risk at their locations".
Vinod Singhal, Brady Family Professor of operations management at the Georgia Institute of Technology's College of Management, added: "The findings of the FM Global Supply Chain Risk Study should be a wake-up call for companies that have substantial investment and dependency on supply chains in China.
"A natural disaster-related supply chain disruption in China would have far-reaching and long-lasting negative economic impact. It would slow down the global economy because China is not only a major exporter of goods, but also a major importer of goods. It would cause shortages in many consumer and industrial products that could lead to inflation and devastate the share price of companies."
Howard Kunreuther, the James G Dinan Professor of decision sciences and public policy at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "The findings in this report point to how interdependent risks can have severe financial consequences in global supply chains. Firms need to undertake proactive measures, such as finding several sources of supply so that they are not dependent on one company that may be adversely affected by a natural disaster. There needs to be a realisation that the process of developing a resilient supply chain takes time."
FM Global said it recommends businesses ask four simple, but often overlooked, questions when looking at their organisations' resiliency, especially when it has, or could have, a critical reliance in emerging markets such as China.
They are, does your senior management view resiliency as a competitive advantage and has it made the necessary commitment to addressing supply chain risk? Has your organisation examined how it can mitigate risk within its product design and manufacturing processes? How well does your company collaborate with its suppliers to assess and mitigate risk? And, does your corporation have appropriate business continuity and disaster recovery plans in place for supply chain disruptions in emerging markets, such as China?