Shifting politics, technology shape top business risks in 2014: Forecast

Complex new business practices, regulatory environments will be among top challenges

A more stable economy with modest economic growth is in the forecast for Canadian employers next year — but that doesn’t mean 2014 will be without challenges.

Ever-shifting political landscapes, technology and regulatory environments mean businesses will have to adapt to survive, according to a 2014 business risk forecast from law firm Borden Ladner Gervais.

From navigating a whole new model for European trade to securing sensitive business information in an increasingly connected world, 2014 will bring numerous new challenges, risks and opportunities.

"In Canada, we have political and economic stability, a sound financial system, smoothly functioning markets and a wealth of natural and intellectual resources," said Sean Weir, national managing partner and CEO of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (BLG).

"As we look to 2014, however, we are expecting a number of evolving and often stringent regulatory requirements, as well as increased public scrutiny. By anticipating these complex and dynamic issues, companies can better ensure their long-term health and protect their good reputations."

Some top 2014 business issues include:

• Employee rights, employer wrongs: Employers need to reexamine termination clauses in employee contracts, as recent case law may make them unenforceable. Issues around unpaid interns are often a legal grey area that employers should pay attention to.

• Entrepreneurs, access to capital and the crowd: As crowdfunding continues to be a growing trend among entrepreneurs, Canadian securities regulators will have to balance the protection of investors with the operation of fair capital markets.

• Activist shareholders: Governance will become trickier as shareholders fight for a great stake and greater say in pay, board nomination, success, and corporate investment.

• Before you hit the “send” button: Canada’s new anti-spam legislation comes into force in 2014, so now consumers will have a legal basis to complain about the electronic messages they receive. Organizations need to make sure they are in compliance by July 2014, or they could be hit with significant fines.

• Data security in the electronic era: Organizations have a legal responsibility to protect their employees’ and clients’ data, whether it’s in a server room, on a cloud or on a forgotten smartphone or lost thumb drive. The risks change with every new device.

• Social media: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it: One tweet is all it takes to compromise a company’s brand or launch a defamation suit. Organizations need to protect themselves from social media risks.

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