This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2022 Sustainable Business Series.
The Sustainable Business Series seeks to help local firms understand the role that they play in progressing to net zero, as well as the opportunities and challenges that may arise from the net-zero transition. Through an expansive range of blogs, webinars, events and podcasts, the Sustainable Business Series offers useful information to businesses interested in adopting a sustainable business approach.
See the Sustainable Business Series webinar’s and events here
Climate change is happening now. This year we’ve seen unprecedented consecutive storms in February and extreme temperatures over summer. Increasingly, we can expect to face more risks from climate change to businesses and industry. This includes assets being flooded or damaged, volatile financial markets, and disruptions to supply chains and employee productivity.
The need for urgent action has never been clearer. Striking the balance between optimism and realism, our actions must drive climate mitigation efforts whilst allowing businesses to adapt and ensuring they are resilient. Here, I’ll share my top three learnings from my work on Britain’s new zero carbon, high-speed railway, High Speed Two (HS2), to help you build a climate-resilient business.
Tip 1: Understand the risks you face
Prepare for 2°C, plan for 4°C, is the advice of the Environment Agency. Assessing the risks your business faces is essential to understand what measures you’ll need to take to adapt. Your risks will depend on your business type and the climate change scenario you consider. For HS2’s risk assessment, detailed in our Climate Change Adaptation report, we used a higher climate scenario to test and understand our designs and shape our operational policies.
There are many free resources available to help you complete a climate change risk assessment, including the latest UK risk assessment which highlights key risks. More bespoke guidance such as UKGBC’s Physical Risk framework for build assets are also available. We are partnering on putting this framework into action on a sample of our assets through UKGBC’s Physical Risk Labs project.
Tip 2: Embed climate resilience thinking now
Embedding climate resilience thinking into your business early on provides the greatest opportunity for adaptation and resilience to be integrated in your business. At HS2, we have embedded climate adaptation considerations at every possible step from planning to design, and from construction to operation.
All major structures on the HS2 project are designed to achieve a minimum of 120 years before major maintenance. Where needed, we have pushed beyond international and UK design standards to integrate climate change into our designs. This provides future proofing of designs that could be irreversible or costly to retrofit or change at a later date, whilst decreasing our exposure to risks.
To successfully embed climate resilience into your business, holistic thinking is needed across all functions. For example, is your supply chain diversified from the impacts of climate change? Are your operations resilient to extreme weather events? Is climate change integrated into flood risk assessment when identifying new asset locations? Training may also be needed to upskill the workforce in understanding the impacts of climate change.
Tip 3: Measure your progress on adaptation and report it
Measuring performance and benchmarking progress is key to integrate adaptation thinking into your business. Reporting on your progress in climate change adaptation and resilience will build transparency and consistency whilst providing insights to make your business more sustainable. At HS2, we submitted our first climate adaptation report in 2021 to Defra and made it publicly available online. The Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), is another way you can report internally or externally and provides resources on personnel training and risk assessment.
Our near future will be shaped by climate change. We need to adapt. We need to be proactive. We need to plan and prepare.
I hope my top three tips will help you increase your business resilience through understanding and measuring the risk you face, embedding climate resilient thinking and reporting your progress in adaptation. Are you ready for our future?
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