Managing climate risks – where do I begin?


At an event in London on 15th October, speakers from BusinessGreen and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reinforced the message that while many businesses have thought about their future climate risks, only a small proportion has implemented any arrangements to manage them. This is hardly surprising given competing strategic priorities, limited time and money, and a lack of understanding of the need to do anything.

So what can organisations do for starters? Speaking at the event, Munish Datta (Head of Property for Plan A, Marks and Spencer) and John Mackenzie (UK Gas Transmission Asset Engineering Manager, National Grid) asserted the fundamental need for organisations to embed climate change adaptation on their corporate risk register, look at future climate threats and opportunities, put in place plans to manage their priority risks and integrate these with their business model or corporate strategies.

In light of this stark message from two leading international companies, I thought I’d share some tips to help you begin this process based on my experience working with public and private sector organisations.

Where and how do you begin? Start a conversation with departmental directors and key corporate staff: hohave your organisation’s critical functions been affected by weather in recent years? What consequences did this have for your operations – financially, reputationally and legally? The current threats you face are likely to continue into the future, but the impacts and consequences are likely to be more frequent, more damaging – and less predictable. New threats and opportunities will emerge too.

How effective you are with this will depend on how well you communicate the challenges (and opportunities) to senior management. Identify why your organisation needs to take adaptation seriously and firmly articulate the consequences of failing to do so. Make it relevant and specific: understand organisational goals and how climate change could help or hinder these. Will the corporate vision and objectives be achievable in the future? Will the organisation be viable in the future?

Essentially you are setting out to answer three questions:

  1. How might our organisation’s critical functions be threatened by extreme weather and climate change?
  2. Where are the opportunities to reduce our vulnerability and increase resilience to maintain and enhance efficiency?
  3. What will it cost to operate in a future climate, and what are the costs and benefits of taking preventative action?

Answering these questions will provide the information your organisation needs to begin making adaptation decisions. The chances are senior management will value the opportunity to save money, protect operations and improve customer relations.

Adaptation Scotland will soon be launching “Five steps to managing your climate risks: a guide for public bodies in Scotland”. This guidance will help you to answer these questions and more. In doing so, this will support your compliance with the Public Bodies Climate Change Duties, required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. We will also be launching a business adaptation plan template to support businesses to put in place plans to manage their climate risks. Watch this space!

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