ACCI & UniSA release joint COVID-19 survey

19 Nov 2020 |

A new joint survey produced by ACCI and the University of South Australia has found that maintaining supply chains continues to be one of the most challenging issues for Australian businesses to overcome during the pandemic.

In September 2020, ACCI and UniSA undertook a joint study of the challenges facing Australian businesses operating during and after the initial impact of COVID-19.

The survey also contains invaluable insights on specific trading complications, contained in 21 distinct, in-depth interviews of senior managers from across the country.

“What emerges is a complex array of responses to the external disruptions, global and local, including customer reactions, supply chain adaptations, workforce management practices and government initiatives,” UniSA’s Professor of International Business Dr Susan Freeman said.

ACCI Chief Economist Dr Ross Lambie said the survey showed business-to-business trade was crippled by supply chain disruptions, with more than a third of businesses looking to diversify their supply chains over the coming year.

“We know that businesses went to extreme lengths to shore up their supply chains, from over-ordering and over-stocking, despite cash flow problems, to putting pressure on suppliers where they could.

“We also know that businesses are now looking to change their models, so they aren’t so reliant on one or two supply chains or a single B2B relationship.

“While supply chain diversification is viable for larger businesses, SMEs may experience difficulty with dual-sourcing methods and require accessible digital infrastructure and technology, and on–the–ground mentors to help maintain, strengthen and diversify market suppliers, producers and export market opportunities.

“This is also creating new roles as functional areas are opening and changing in a fully digital environment. This is simultaneously creating new challenges and opportunities for leadership.

“The good news is that the Federal Government is trying to support business through initiatives such as the recently signed RCEP trade agreement which will help businesses to explore new options to help them future-proof their businesses. But more could be done to assist businesses to maintain and adapt their international trade relationships in the near term.”

Dr Lambie said the survey also showed a level of resilience from business owners which was encouraging.

“People in business, particularly those in small and micro businesses, have shown an impressive resilience in the face of adversity.

“We know that JobKeeper and other Government stimulus measures have been vital to their survival, but at the same time many businesses used this time wisely, from exploring new customer bases to transforming through e-commerce.

“Change is difficult but the speed in which many were able to adapt and digitise is noteworthy.”

Professor Freeman said the interviews provide “insight into the current thinking of senior managers and their perceptions of the future opportunities and concerns that a post-COVID or COVID-normal environment will likely generate.”

“There are tough times ahead and this calls for leadership and innovative thinking. There is as window of opportunity here to work with others and adapt so that we’re more flexible and globally competitive,” she said.

“The Prime Minister’s latest trip to Japan, during a pandemic, sends a strong message that Australia is building new partnerships and new possibilities which will be advantageous for Australian businesses trying to forge new relationships with customers and address supply chain challenges.

“We know that there is a perception that what is produced in Australia is the best available. Thus, we do have a positive future to look forward to, if both Governments and the private sector grasp the opportunity for reform now.

“This is a time when other countries are trying to address the challenges and seeking new ways of doing business with new partners.”

To read the survey in full, head to

Marie Hogg

Senior Adviser - Media

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