How well prepared are businesses for climate change?

von Dr. Peter Nagel

● By Eliot Whittington, University of Cambridge ●

The world is changing. The weather is becoming more volatile, with the number of extreme weather events on the rise. Climate change represents the new normal: the Earth is already showing the impacts of our actions, which will continue to become more visible.

More and more businesses recognize what is at stake and are grappling with this ongoing change. Consumer goods company Unilever, for example, has estimated that extreme weather events, such as drought and flooding, cost it 200 million euros in 2011 alone. Supermarket chain Asda, meanwhile, has found that only 5% of its fresh produce supply is unaffected by climate change and that 370 million euros of value across its business is at risk.

With so much at stake, companies in many industries are already responding. Utility Anglian Water, for example, launched its “Love Every Drop” campaign to encourage customers in East Anglia to save water, while reducing operational emissions and generating its own renewable energy. Meanwhile, Thames Water has developed a risk assessment process as part of its investment planning to provide resilience not only to current flooding risks but also a range of possible futures.

At the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), we’ve worked to communicate the implications of climate science to a business audience. There are a number of ways in which climate change can affect businesses in different industries, including rising temperatures, rising sea levels, changes in rain patterns, shrinking glaciers and acidifying oceans. As these impacts become more dramatic, we expect there will be increasingly ambitious policy responses.

Responding to risk

One industry highly attuned to climate change is insurance ...

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