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5 Ways Businesses Can Adapt to Climate Change

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1. Rethink Your Strategy

All businesses urgently need to incorporate long-term thinking about the environment into their plans. We must remember that it’s not just carbon-fuelled companies who will pay the price when the acute effects of this crisis begin to unfold.

If you think your business will be exempt from the fallout, consider this: your ability to provide a certain product or service may be entirely lost as a result of inevitable supply chain disruptions.

Likewise, all businesses that depend on a specific population should acknowledge the reality that parts of the world are projected to become uninhabitable in the near future. It’s reasonable and realistic to ask where your target market will actually be living and what their priorities will be by then.

Ultimately, the survival of your business depends on your ability to answer these questions and make strategic adaptations in response. Otherwise, you may find that your efforts become utterly irrelevant in an ever more extreme environment.

If you’re launching a business at this time, bear in mind that demand for certain products is likely to dwindle as climate change accelerates. Although there’s a market for luxury goods at the moment, this is liable to change alongside the conditions of people’s lives.

How will your product be perceived when the true impact of rampant consumerism is felt on a widespread basis? Bear in mind that if your product is considered wasteful, worthless or damaging, you could see public opinion turn on you overnight.

2. Transform Your Operations

Transformation of your company operations will become unavoidable as the climate crisis worsens. To prepare and make the necessary adaptations, businesses must think about their processes at a deeper level.

Don’t just look at the obvious: your core operations. Take into account your electricity, water, and transportation infrastructure as well. After all, it’s very likely to be affected by severe weather conditions, and this can have a knock-on effect across your entire company. 

A broader view of the many risks that climate change poses is required in order to anticipate and so prevent potential damage, disruption, and destruction. That means asking how your business locations, customers, vendors and stakeholders will be affected too.

Institutions you may depend on such as insurance companies and banks will face a major existential threat as conditions worsen. This is why it’s important not to settle for a superficial analysis when it comes to operations.

3. Take Responsibility

Since we have passed the point of preventing climate change, all we can do now is mitigate its damage. Knowing that, to continue on a path of unchecked consumerism would be extremely irresponsible.

Business has an important role to play in turning the tide in order to delay the rising of sea levels, and one big step would be to start determining value beyond the mere potential for profit.

Businesses should consider whether their products are essential and if they’re worth the resources that it takes to make them. Do they fulfill an important human need or are they just putting humans at further risk by exacerbating the climate crisis?

A real paradigm shift is required, and it won’t be a comfortable one in the business world. Rather than producing flimsy products cheaply in order to maximize profit margins, companies should move towards making durable, recyclable items.

We know that until now, encouraging people to buy beyond their needs has often been a key objective in marketing strategy. Instead, businesses should market responsibly and try to influence the public to buy less, buy smarter and reuse what they already have.

This requires businesses to adopt new markers of success. If they are still driven by the desire for growth, which is inherently unsustainable, then no meaningful change is possible.

Mitigating the climate crisis must come first, and businesses will be responsible for convincing their stakeholders of that. Conventional markers of success must melt away before the ice caps do.

4. Invest in Resilience

To build resilient economies that can withstand the effects of global warming, investment is required. We can see some examples of this, like with Bloomberg which has moved its data center from Manhattan in anticipation of flooding.

In general, however, companies are failing to invest sufficiently. They are not preparing for a future that will be very different due to global warming. This doesn’t make good sense for the planet, and it doesn’t make good business sense either. The Global Commission on Adaptation estimates that investing $1.8 trillion to climate-proof businesses and the broader economy between now and 2030 could generate up to $7.1 trillion in net benefits. You don’t have to be a business expert to know that’s a great return.

Banks also need to invest in resilience. They should be prioritizing infrastructure adaptations when it comes to financing projects. This isn’t just an investment in a project; it’s an investment in the future of our planet.

It would also make sense for insurance companies to act now. After all, when severe weather becomes commonplace, insurance companies will certainly feel the financial impact of increased claims. They should take preventative steps now; for example, by incentivizing greener approaches through their insurance products.

5. Act, don’t react

Frustratingly, many businesses have chosen not to take action against climate change until the government forces their hand. They clearly fear that doing so will give an advantage to their competitors. Sadly, short-term thinking like this is destined to have devastating long-term effects for all of us.

Proactive adaptation is a preferable approach. This means identifying threats in advance and taking action to reduce their harm. It will undoubtedly cost money to make these changes; however, it’s way past time to acknowledge the cost of not making them.

The climate crisis is projected to cause a rise in sea levels, more frequent and severe weather events, heat waves and droughts. Business owners must realistically consider whether their companies or indeed their customers will be able to survive these extreme conditions.

Until the business world accepts the scale of the climate crisis and agrees to take collective action, our entire world will continue to suffer the consequences – and business won’t survive alone.

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