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  • Julien Haye

Necessary vs Unnecessary Risks

Strategic Risk Management: Unveiling the Art of Recognising Essential and Avoidable Risks

Strategic Risk Management: Unveiling the Art of Recognising Essential and Avoidable Risks
How can organisations differentiate between necessary and unnecessary risks to enhance strategic decision-making and long-term resilience in risk management?

The ability to discern between necessary and unnecessary risks stands as a pivotal skill, steering the trajectory of success or veering toward potential pitfalls. As businesses navigate the dynamic currents of their industries, the distinction between these two types of risks emerges as a critical enabler to effective risk management.


This article endeavours to shed light on the profound importance of recognising and understanding necessary and unnecessary risks, offering a roadmap for strategic decision-makers. By exploring real-world examples and key risk management definitions, we aim to provide you with insights that will not only refine your understanding of risk but also empower you to strengthen your organisation's resilience and drive toward its objectives.

Some key risk definitions


Risk Management Definition

Risk management is the systematic process of identifying, assessing, prioritising, and mitigating risks to achieve organisational objectives. It involves analysing potential uncertainties and taking proactive measures to minimise the negative impact of adverse events while maximising opportunities for success.


The effectiveness of risk management hinges on the organisation's ability to discern between risks that are integral to its strategic objectives (necessary risks) and those that pose threats without strategic justification (unnecessary risks).


Necessary Risk Definition

Necessary risk refers to risks that an organisation willingly accepts and incorporates into its strategies and operations due to their alignment with the pursuit of long-term goals and objectives. These risks are deemed essential for achieving growth, innovation, and competitive advantage.


Unnecessary Risk Definition

Unnecessary risk denotes risks that an organisation incurs without significant strategic justification. These risks may pose a threat to the organisation's stability, reputation, or overall objectives without corresponding benefits. Effective risk management involves identifying and mitigating unnecessary risks when possible.


Contingency Planning Definition

Contingency planning involves the development of strategies and actions to respond effectively to unforeseen events or crises that could disrupt normal business operations. It aims to ensure business continuity, minimise the impact of disruptions, and enable organisations to recover quickly from unexpected challenges.


The ability to differentiate between necessary and unnecessary risks greatly informs the development of these strategies. Necessary risks may require robust contingency plans to ensure business continuity, while unnecessary risks may prompt re-evaluation and mitigation efforts.


Data Security Definition

Data security refers to the protective measures and protocols implemented to safeguard digital information from unauthorised access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. It involves the use of encryption, access controls, firewalls, and other cybersecurity measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data.


Cybersecurity Definition

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems, networks, and digital information from cyber threats such as unauthorised access, data breaches, and attacks. It involves implementing technologies, processes including regular audits and employee trainings, and policies to prevent, detect, and respond to cybersecurity incidents.


Necessary risks, such as data sharing for business collaborations, demand protective measures to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Unnecessary risks, like inadequate security measures, underscore the importance of robust cybersecurity practices to prevent unauthorised access, data breaches, and cyber threats.

Read more about the ION Trading Cyber attack.


Interconnection within the Risk Management Framework

Recognising necessary and unnecessary risks is not a standalone exercise; it is the cornerstone of effective risk identification and mitigation. This awareness informs risk assessments, allowing organisations to prioritise and allocate resources strategically. It guides the development of proactive risk management strategies tailored to the organisation's risk appetite and tolerance levels. Moreover, this distinction influences decision-making processes, ensuring that risks are considered in the context of organisational objectives and strategic planning.

Example of Necessary Risk - Product Innovation

Consider a technology company launching a ground-breaking product in a competitive market. The decision to invest in the development and launch of this product involves inherent risks, such as market acceptance and technological challenges. However, these risks are deemed necessary for the company's growth and staying competitive in the industry. Through careful market research, prototyping, and contingency planning, the organisation can manage and optimise these risks to achieve its strategic objectives.

Example of Unnecessary Risk - Poor Supplier Management

Imagine a manufacturing company relying heavily on a single supplier for a critical component. If the company fails to diversify its supplier base or assess the financial stability of the chosen supplier, it exposes itself to unnecessary risk. In the event of the supplier facing financial issues or disruptions, the manufacturing process could be severely impacted. This risk could have been mitigated by implementing a strategy to diversify suppliers and conduct regular assessments to ensure a stable and reliable supply chain.

Example of Necessary Risk - Market Expansion

A retail company planning to expand into international markets faces uncertainties related to cultural differences, regulatory compliance, and market demand. Despite these challenges, the decision to expand is a necessary risk for achieving long-term growth. The company can navigate these risks by conducting thorough market research, adapting its products or services to local preferences, and establishing robust partnerships with local entities.

Example of Unnecessary Risk - Inadequate Data Security Measures

In today's digital age, data security is paramount. Suppose a financial institution neglects to invest in robust cybersecurity measures, leaving customer data vulnerable to cyber threats. This unnecessary risk not only compromises customer trust but also exposes the organisation to regulatory penalties and legal consequences. Implementing comprehensive cybersecurity protocols, regular audits, and employee training could have mitigated this risk effectively.

Examples of Industry-Specific Necessary and Unnecessary Risks

The distinctions between necessary and unnecessary risks can vary significantly across sectors, prompting organisations to tailor their risk management approaches accordingly.


Financial Sector

  • Necessary Risks: Financial institutions often engage in risk-taking for investment purposes. Necessary risks may include strategic investments, portfolio diversification, and market exposure for potential returns.

  • Unnecessary Risks: Poor regulatory compliance, inadequate cybersecurity measures, or un-diversified investment portfolios may constitute unnecessary risks in the financial sector.


Healthcare Industry

  • Necessary Risks: Innovation in medical treatments and technology adoption are necessary risks for the healthcare sector. Clinical trials, research endeavours, and embracing cutting-edge medical practices fall into this category.

  • Unnecessary Risks: Insufficient patient data security measures, non-compliance with healthcare regulations, or hasty adoption of unproven medical technologies may pose unnecessary risks.


Technology and IT Sector

  • Necessary Risks: Rapid technological advancements, product innovation, and early adoption of emerging technologies are often deemed necessary risks in the technology sector.

  • Unnecessary Risks: Inadequate cybersecurity measures, failure to adapt to evolving industry standards, or overlooking data privacy can be considered unnecessary risks in the tech industry.


Manufacturing and Supply Chain

  • Necessary Risks: Global supply chain expansion, process automation, and adoption of lean manufacturing principles are necessary risks for the manufacturing sector.

  • Unnecessary Risks: Over-reliance on a single supplier, insufficient quality control measures, or inadequate environmental sustainability practices may be categorised as unnecessary risks.


Energy and Utilities

  • Necessary Risks: Exploration of alternative energy sources, large-scale infrastructure projects, and compliance with environmental regulations constitute necessary risks in the energy sector.

  • Unnecessary Risks: Poor safety protocols, non-compliance with environmental standards, or inadequate disaster response planning may represent unnecessary risks.


Retail and Consumer Goods

  • Necessary Risks: Product innovation, expansion into new markets, and embracing e-commerce are considered necessary risks in the retail sector.

  • Unnecessary Risks: Inadequate data security in online transactions, non-compliance with consumer protection laws, or lack of market research before product launches may pose unnecessary risks.


Aerospace and Defence

  • Necessary Risks: Cutting-edge technology adoption, research and development for new defence systems, and global market expansion are often deemed necessary risks.

  • Unnecessary Risks: Poor quality control in manufacturing, non-compliance with international regulations, or inadequate cybersecurity in defence systems could be unnecessary risks.



The distinction between necessary and unnecessary risks is not a theoretical exercise but a cornerstone of effective risk management. By recognising and navigating these risks with a clear understanding of organisational objectives, businesses can optimise their strategic decisions and enhance long-term resilience. As you develop your risk strategy, consider these distinctions as valuable tools in achieving your growth, innovation, and competitive advantage.


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