Marsh & McLennan Advantage Insights logo
Conversations and insights from the edge of global business
Menu Search

BRINK News is transitioning to This Moment platform on as of March 31, 2023. Read the update here.


How BRINK Covered The Changes To Society in 2020

Five days into the new year, we invited contributors to send us their thoughts on the biggest risks of 2020. Their predictions covered a wide range, from increasingly nationalistic governments, to the price of oil, the effects of climate change, how we will handle artificial intelligence, and the collapse of the rules-based multilateral trading system. 

No one foresaw a pandemic.

Yet within a month, COVID was all that most people were talking about. In total, BRINK published 123 articles relating to society and societal risk in 2020, and the majority of them dealt with the impact of coronavirus on our way of life and our way of working.

By April, the impact of COVID on the economy was becoming clear. We showed this graph from LinkedIn:

At that time, we were only discussing the possibility of 100,000 Americans being infected. In May, a piece by Amir Sharif, associate dean at the University of Bradford School of Management, examined the threat of COVID to the food supply chain and concluded that it was surprisingly resilient:

“There may be an opportunity for individuals and organizations to leverage the benefits of the immediate community instead of global supply chains, adopting principles of redesign, reduce, reuse and recycle (i.e., circular economy concepts). Food supply chains of the future may shift back to seasonal produce and local growth and supply.”

On the Move

Interestingly, trust in corporations and governments appeared to surge during the pandemic, while Christopher Dougherty, vice president at AXON Communications, discussed some of the impact to date on the U.S. health care system:

“The American Hospital Association estimates that American hospitals incurred more than $202 billion in losses between March 1st and June 30th — or more than $50 billion a month — from a combination of reduced revenue and increased costs.

Who is left to foot the final bill — and just how much of it — is one of the biggest unresolved questions, especially given the country’s unique patchwork system of health care delivery networks, range of insurance plans and variable policy priorities.”

By July, data from the Pew Research Center showed that the virus was causing millions of Americans to consider relocating:

One of the most popular pieces on BRINK altogether in 2020 was by Manisha Mirchandani, the director of strategy at Long Dash: How Did Vietnam and Cambodia Contain COVID-19 With Few Resources?

“Local-level surveillance and the participation of communities have helped early identification of possible outbreaks in Vietnam, as did an approach based on risk of exposure regardless of whether a person exhibited symptoms. This may have been critical in containing COVID-19, given the emerging evidence that asymptomatic people are able to transmit the virus to others. 

Once identified, Vietnam had set up the infrastructure to quarantine infected persons and international travelers, minimizing household exposure to the virus; some 200,000 people spent time in a quarantine facility between January and May of 2020.”

The Future of Work

Kate Bravery of Mercer, who studies the future of work, says that one of the key insights in 2020 for employers has been the need to think about what she calls the three-dimensional worker:

“The bold statements at the start of the pandemic regarding ‘we will stay 100% remote’ or ‘we are a community-based business’ just haven’t borne out; what is desirable by individuals has to be factored into any redesign of work, work models and workspaces.:

Brendan Burchell and Daiga Kamerāde of Cambridge University shared their research, which showed that even just a few hours of work a week improved mental health:

“Employment, it seems, acts like some elements in our diet — you only need tiny traces of minerals such as zinc and fluoride to make all the difference between good and poor health. 

Taking larger doses is no better for you than taking the minimum needed. But, below eight hours of employment a week, mental health drops off markedly.”

Generational Shift

Beyond COVID-19, a lot of attention in 2020 was on the rise of millennials and what that means for consumer behavior and values. 

The Black Lives Matter movement created a huge focus on diversity and the importance of ESG measures for companies. By June, 69% of all Americans were saying they had talked about racial issues with friends and family recently. 

Around August, America reached a demographic milestone in which more than half of the population became millennial or younger. Rob Bailey and Angela Ferguson of MMC Advantage said that the rise of millennials will increase the level of climate activism:

“There is evidence from multiple countries that millennial voters are more concerned about climate change than earlier generations, while 80% of younger millennials and Gen Z in the U.S. say that climate change is a major threat to human life on Earth as we know it.”

BRINK’s most widely read pieces on Society in 2020 were as follows:

  1. How Did Vietnam and Cambodia Contain COVID-19 With Few Resources? 
  2. Coronavirus Is Changing Consumer Habits in the Food Industry 
  3. 9 Things Women Will Face in the Workplace This Year 
  4. Working From Home Is Here to Stay 
  5. Is Coronavirus Covered by Workers’ Compensation in the US?

If you would like to read more of our Society articles in 2020 — anything from the elimination of polio in Africa, Asia’s aging population, the race for space, or personalized medicine — you can find them all here.


Thomas Carver

Executive Editor of BRINK News

Thomas Carver is the executive editor of BRINK News. Thomas leads the editorial output on BRINK, supported by the team at Long Dash, a creative consultancy grown from journalistic roots. Thomas is a former journalist who worked as the BBC’s Africa and Washington correspondent.

Following the BBC, he ran the Washington office of Control Risks, where he led risk mitigation projects for clients in emerging markets. Thomas was subsequently head of external relations at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the global think tank. During his tenure, Carnegie’s external relations operation was ranked #1 out of 6,500 think tanks worldwide.

Thomas is a British army veteran with a BA Honors in Modern History. He has British and American nationality.

Get ahead in a rapidly changing world. Sign up for our daily newsletter. Subscribe