Under the weather

6th February 2014

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Supply chain ,
  • Corporate governance ,
  • EMS ,
  • Mitigation ,
  • Adaptation


Jason Collins-Webb

As flooding and storms continue to savage the UK, Nick Blyth argues that the inclement weather is a warning for businesses about the risks of climate change

Since the end of 2013, businesses across the UK have been hit with a large and unwelcome dose of extreme weather. Coastal regions have been battered by vast waves and strong winds, while many other regions have suffered from flooding with rivers unable to cope with record levels of rainfall.

Climate science indicates that incidents of flooding and extreme weather are set to increase. At the simplest level, scientists point to basic physics; warmer air can "hold" more moisture. The strong likelihood is that in a warmer climate heavy rainfall will increase leading to more intense or extreme weather events.

While individual incidences of inclement weather cannot be proven to be the result of changes to the world’s climate, for many businesses the debate is irrelevant because bad weather is already hitting their bottom lines. Around 65%% of UK businesses have suffered supply chain disruption, according to a poll by insurance firm Zurich, and 70% of CDP participants say that climate change has the potential to significantly affect their revenue.

In the UK, one-quarter of days in 2012 were officially in drought and 20 million people were affected by hosepipe bans. However, by the end of the year, 2012 also delivered the wettest summer on record. River levels tripled and flooding hit almost every region with costs to the economy at around £600 million. Estimates indicate that the impact on businesses was in the region of £200 million, with property damage alone costing £85 million.

In response to these direct costs and concerns over future impacts, businesses, particularly multinationals, are starting to build resilience into their supply chains and operations. They are recognising that early planning for the impacts of severe weather makes good business sense and, potentially, offers future competitive advantage.

However, relatively few small businesses are taking measures to address and adapt to climate risks – research shows that around 90% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have inadequate flood insurance.

Often the efforts of environment and sustainability practitioners to address climate change risks are hindered by short-term planning horizons, especially as many organisations are still feeling the impacts of the 2008 economic meltdown and the slow economic recovery. Many companies simply do not see a business case for actions that offer no immediate financial advantage.

That said, the tide of awareness does appear to finally be turning. The ongoing floods and bad weather have seen adaptation and resilience moving up the business agenda. Respected business bodies, such as the CBI, are now promoting the need for action: “Tackling climate change means using energy more efficiently, future-proofing businesses against climate threats and moving business operations towards carbon neutrality,” states the CBI’s website.

To support this growing awareness, a range of guidance is now developing for companies on how to be pro-active and address the impacts of climate change. The Environment Agency has an important role in providing advice to both public and private sector organisations through its “climate ready” service. Meanwhile, IEMA, in partnership with the Agency and Defra, has developed guidance for practitioners on how to build the business case for climate change adaptation.

Flooding and extreme weather events are forcing businesses to consider their vulnerabilities and dependencies. The good news is that there is a growing understanding that taking action is possible and that a real business case exists to develop organisational resilience to climate change and extreme weather impacts.

Nick Blyth is IEMA’s policy and practice lead on climate change


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

SBTi clarifies that ‘no change has been made’ to its stance on offsetting

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Five of the latest books on the environment and sustainability

3rd April 2024

Read more

Ben Goodwin reflects on policy, practice and advocacy over the past year

2nd April 2024

Read more

In 2020, IEMA and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) jointly wrote and published A User Guide to Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. This has now been updated to include three key developments in the field.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close