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Adapt or die: why businesses must have climate action plans

Have you heard of the Darwin Awards?

In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the awards commemorate individuals that protect our gene pool by committing idiotic acts that defy reason. The dark humour here is that they improve our species' chances of long-term survival.

I’m sharing this with you because I do not want to see anyone here sacrifice their businesses due to stupidity or neglect and find themselves with a "Darwin award".

Climate change resilience reduces the risk of making errors that are easily avoided through a little thought and preparation (at least to begin with).

The Stern report

Governments strive to achieve economic growth – to increase GDP. After all, the greater GDP the more taxes can be collected. Unfortunately, GDP is linked to greater GHG. More products are made, more resources are used and more pollution generated.

GDP does not put a value on ethics or environment. Arguably it’s an outdated measurement.

In 2006, Tony Blair commissioned Nicholas Stern, an economist, to take a look at the economic impact of climate change in the UK. He produced the Stern Report.

It was clear that Climate Change affects the basics of survival – food, water, health and environment. It will affect 100’s of millions of people.

Nicholas Stern’s conclusion was – if we do nothing it will be the equivalent of losing at least 5% of global GDP/ year for ever. Worst case scenario was 20% of global GDP /year.

For each year we do nothing, the cost to catch up and get things on an even keel is increasing.

Stern did a review 10 years later. And concluded that he had underestimated the situation.

He said...

“With hindsight, I now realise that I underestimated the risks. I should have been much stronger in what I said in the report about costs of inaction. I under played the dangers.

He argued that “The costs involved - in investing in technology would be far outweighed by the costs of coping with an overheated world afflicted by flooding, soaring temperatures ruined crops and farmland, lack of food and displaced people”.

And yet here we are…


  1. Emissions trading to reduce the use of fossil fuel

  2. Global agreements for working on low-carbon technology

  3. Reduction of deforestation

  4. Adaption to weather and climate

As a matter of urgency we as businesses, big and small, must look at how we cope with a changing climate

The commercial sector and climate resilience

This is how the insurers and financial sector see it.

Zurich UK said flash flooding threatens 42% of Londons 301,000 commercial buildings

A US Insolvency practitioner said that Wall Street has a metric called “climate resiliency”. The value of a business includes this metric. This is becoming increasingly important.

In the NY Times the same practitioner noted that if businesses don’t address climate change they will likely end up in liquidation.

So what should a business do?

What to consider

Ask yourself: what are the potential impacts of climate change on my business?

Practically, carry out some “What if” scenarios:

How would your business continue to operate amidst a....

· Power outage

· Telecomms and IT failure

· Waste build up scenario

· Breach in facility integrity

· shortage of raw materials and resources stocks

· Supply chain failure

· Staff shortage

List the impacts and give them a score - according to impact on business from irritating but not a train crash to “an Actual train crash”

Consider how you can mitigate each problem.

Some solutions may include...


- Back up procedures

- Emergency stock

- Contractual arrangements with key suppliers

- Contractual arrangements with key staff where their skills are required in an emergency (over night accommodation)

- Weather monitor – get specific data sent eg flood alert

- Check integrity and stability of suppliers )supplier engagement)

The health of your supply chain is critical.

Evidence suggests that 79% of companies with high performance supply chains achieve revenue growth superior to the average business in the same sector.

On the other side of the coin…

Supply chain failure leads to insolvency.

Example: In 2011, floods in Thailand seriously affected 14,500 businesses.

Lack of micro chips stopped the transport manufacturers in their tracks.

It only takes one severe flood, a wild fire, or a power failure to sink your business. Be paranoid!

Do an action plan and make sure your staff are aware that it exists.

Do not be the business being offered a Darwin award.

Written by Mandy Stoker, Founder and Director of E4environment Ltd

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