Business continuity in a crisis: COVID-19 challenges

Unplanned events can have a devastating effect on organizations. Learn about the resources available to help you respond to the challenges related to COVID-19.

Organizations are facing unprecedented times as the measures being deployed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are impacting capital markets, supply chains, and business operations. The uncertainties of the current environment serve as a powerful reminder to senior decision-makers of the need for risk management and crisis planning.

Organizations that have typically survived crises were best able to recover if they:

  • had a well-tested business continuity plan or prepared such a plan promptly
  • had strong leadership to ensure decisive action in response to immediate uncertainties
  • communicated swiftly and frankly with stakeholders and, where appropriate, the media
  • demonstrated practical compassion for those impacted
  • were prepared for the mundane and predictable problems of business continuity (e.g., alternative technological and communication systems, preservation of vital records and other operational requirements, including remote access)
  • had access to financial and other resources to absorb the effects of the crisis or conducted an early and aggressive review of cash flow and developed a cash management plan

COVID-19 poses significant challenges and, unlike many crises, has unfolded without much advance warning or scope for preparation. Nevertheless, there is a wealth of information and resources that organizations can use to weather the pandemic and its aftermath and can be accessed here. CEOs and small business owners may find it helpful to bring this information to their boards or other advisors to stimulate discussion on the issue. 


  • How is the organization reacting to this crisis?
  • Are employees, shareholders and other key stakeholders staying calm and letting the leaders of the organization address the crisis?
  • Do those in leadership positions have access to the resources and support necessary to respond decisively and effectively?
  • If not, how can the organization best access external advice?

Responding to COVID-19: Insights from Financial Leaders (Webinar)
April 28, 2020, 12pm - 1 pm EDT I CPA Canada

Business Continuity During a Crisis: Considerations
2020 I CPA Canada

Business as Unusual
2020 I CPA Canada

NFP: Running a Nonprofit Virtually Through a Pandemic (Webinar)
2020 | Ontario Nonprofit Network

COVID-19 Digital International Business Information Event Hub
2020 | Function 4

NFP: Responding to COVID-19: What Canadian NPO Boards and Management Teams Should Know (Webinar)
2020 I PWC & Imagine Canada

Leading Successfully in Turbulent Times
2020 | KPMG

8 Steps for Planning Your Emergency and Disaster Plan (includes templates)
2020 | BDC

COVID-19 Business Continuity Plan: 5 Ways to Reshape (EY)
2020 I EY

Pandemic Preparedness Guide for Business
2020 | Canadian Chamber of Commerce


  • Does the organization have sufficient funds (or access to financing) to continue operations?
  • How will the organization fund extra costs or operate with reduced revenues during the crisis?
  • Is a cash flow plan in place and how should it be revised to address unanticipated expenses?

Optimizing Cash and Lender Dealings in the Current Crisis (Webinar)
2020 I CPA Canada

COVID-19: Business Continuity During Crisis – Cash Flow Management
March 2020 | CPA Canada

COVID-19: Get Financing and Support for Your Business (Webinar)
2020 | EDC

COVID-19: Is Your Company Insured for Business Interruptions?
2020 | BLG

Cash is King: Cash-flow Maintenance, Taxes and Other Government Economic Measures in Response to COVID-19
2020 | Dentons

Financing Opportunities During the COVID-19 Pandemic
2020 | Osler

Responding to COVID-19: 7 Steps to Manage Cash Flow and Financial Headwinds
2020 I Grant Thornton

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: What Employers Need to Know
2020 I Denton

NFP: Fundraising Amidst a Global Pandemic
2020 I Nonprofit Pro

NFP: Accessing Restricted Funds
2020 | Ontario Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee


  • How is the organization communicating to key stakeholders and the public in general?
  • Is information being communicated to those who need to have it (e.g., is the CEO of a public company appropriately engaging the board?
  • Is the board balancing its need to know with management's responsibility for dealing promptly with urgent issues?

Returning to the Workplace After COVID-19: What Boards Should Be Thinking About
2020 | PwC

Contractual Risks Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak
2020 | BLG

Employer Strategies for Managing Novel Coronavirus Risks in the Workplace 
2020 | BLG

COVID-19: Is Your Company Insured for Business Interruptions? 
2020 | BLG

Stepping In: The Board's Role in the COVID-19 Crisis
2020 | Deloitte

Directors' Duties and Governance Best Practices in Response to COVID-19
2020 I Davies

COVID-19: Canadian Public Disclosure Considerations During the Pandemic
2020 I Davies

NFP: What Nonprofit Board Members Should Be Doing Right Now to Address the COVID-19 Situation
2020 I Boardsource

NFP: Communications, Protection, Readiness: NPower’s NonProfit Guide to Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
2020 I Npower

NFP: Governing an NFP Through the COVID-19 Crisis
2020 I ICD

Board Oversight During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Checklist for Directors
2020 | Osler

NFP: Annual General Meetings During the COVID-19 Pandemic
2020 | Volunteer Canada

NFP: The COVID-19 Pandemic - Key Considerations for Charity and Non-Profit Governance
2020 | Miller Thomson LLP


  • What are the essential services that must continue, and which ones may be put on hold?
  • What is the plan for operating with a skeleton crew?
  • If those in leadership positions are out of commission, who can direct the organization as needed? 

New Details on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
2020 | CPA Canada

Provincial Employment Standards Amendments
2020 | Dentons

Contractual Obligations: Lessons Learned During the Pandemic
2020 | Dentons

NFP: CRA Charities Directorate Announces Extension of T3010 Filing Deadlines
2020 | Canadian Charity Law

2020 | Government of Canada

COVID-19 Quick Reference Considerations for Employers
2020 | Osler

Employment Law in the Era of COVID-19: What Now and What's Next? (Webinar)
2020 | Osler

NFP: Charity & NFP Law Update: Special COVID-19 Edition
2020 I Carters

Note: Resources created by external organizations were not reviewed, developed or approved by CPA Canada. CPA Canada accepts no responsibility or liability that might occur directly or indirectly as a consequence of the use, application or reliance on these external resources.