There’s a lot of talk about how organizations can and should reduce their negative impact on the environment. While staying focused on mitigating our current and future contributions to climate change is crucial, we cannot ignore the dire impacts of existing climate hazards. Risks from wildfires, floods, heat, drought and wind have always been a concern, but climate change has intensified these risks, making them more frequent and unpredictable for organizations. This situation increases the need for businesses to adapt their sustainability strategies to address climate change issues.
As we saw in New York in September 2023, extreme precipitation can quickly stymie the ability to conduct “business as usual” and create a ripple effect of ramifications. When Brooklyn received a month’s worth of rain in just three hours, it disrupted the functionality of roads, bridges, tunnels, railways, ports and airports.
Extreme weather events not only threaten infrastructure but also obstruct routes, hindering goods transportation and disrupting supply chains even in regions far from the affected area. When lumbermills were shuttered during the 2023 Canadian wildfires, the limited availability and higher price of lumber was particularly hard on the housing industry across North America.
In Florida and California, where hurricanes and wildfires respectively have become more rampant, some insurance providers are choosing to stop servicing these regions entirely.
Here are six climate change adaptation strategies that can help you gain data and insights for managing and minimizing the impacts of climate hazards:
Predict climate change risks and the impact upcoming weather events have on your business operations. In retail, for example, use future flood risk predictions to inform store location planning, raw material procurement, and inventory supply chain logistics.
Prepare for the various ways weather and climate change can impact your business. In the electrical utility sector, overgrowth around powerlines increases susceptibility to storm or wildfires damage. Knowing the rates at which vegetation is likely to grow along the grid network aids in effective vegetation management planning.
Protect your assets and ensure business continuity throughout a severe weather event—before, during and after. For instance, proactively identify high-risk assets and develop a contingency plan. Should those assets be affected, establish and clearly document and communicate risk scenario protocols, and conduct routine risk scenario planning that includes several alternative logistic routes and methods of transportation.
Mitigate risks by proactively minimizing economic and environmental damage from severe weather events. An insurer, for example, could send an SMS alert advising policyholders to move their vehicles ahead of a predicted hailstorm.
Manage your carbon footprint by understanding your organization’s scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 carbon emissions. By doing so, you model your energy supply to help navigate and accelerate your transition to renewable energy.
Improve real-time decision-making to cut costs, boost efficiency and support sustainability goals. For example, invest in technology that enables you to see the current health status of vital assets and make necessary adjustments remotely and quickly.
While reducing their negative environmental impact is a key concern for many organizations, adapting to climate change and its associated risks should also be a business priority. Climate hazards affect everyone, regardless of industry, geography, business maturity or level of commitment to achieving sustainability goals. A proactive approach to mitigating your business’s climate risks includes staying informed about the latest developments in sustainability.
VP, Product Management, IBM Sustainability