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Will Climate Change Affect Your UK Business?

In parts of the world, the arguments surrounding global warming are getting as hot as the planet.

Thermometer outside in sunshine

So should climate change be one of the considerations that go into opening a business? Do UK businesses need flood insurance? Should they be using solar energy? Is the climbing average temperature going to spoil their perfectly-cultivated, effective working environment?

Committee on Climate Change logo

Though they may seem a bit far-fetched or pre-emptive, these questions are rapidly becoming something UK businesses need to devote time to, according to the Committee on Climate Change’s UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report.

In ranking the severity of the threats, the CCC used three levels: more action needed; research priority; and sustain current action. It defines them in the following ways on page three:

  • More action needed. New, stronger or different Government policies or implementation activity — over and above that already planned — are needed in the next five years to reduce long-term vulnerability to climate change.”
  • Research priority. New research is needed to fill significant evidence gaps or reduce the uncertainty in the current level of understanding in order to assess the need for additional action.”
  • Sustain current action. Current and planned levels of future activity are appropriate, but continued implementation of these policies or plans is needed to ensure that the risk is managed in the future. This includes any existing plans to increase or change the current level of activity.”

The section devoted to businesses — pages 85-93 — examines five major threats to UK businesses and assigns them the appropriate ranking.

More action needed:

  • Risks to business sites from flooding

Research priority:

  • Risks to business from loss of coastal locations and infrastructure
  • Risks to business from reduced employee productivity, due to infrastructure disruption and higher temperatures in working environments

Sustain current action:

  • Risks to business operations from water scarcity
  • Risks to business from disruption to supply chains and distribution networks

Flooded Road
Flooding, it can be assumed, is the biggest environmental threat to UK businesses. This was highlighted again in a recent New York Times’ article  focused on Carlisle, England, a town at the meeting point of three rivers. Parts of the city have been flooded thrice in a decade. Hundreds of businesses were damaged, some of which never re-opened. There’s growing concern amongst the community that, as water levels continue to rise, some businesses in the area may close permanently and some homes may not be re-built or re-inhabited.

According to National Geographic, sea levels have been rising approximately 3.2 millimetres each year for the past two decades.

In the CCC’s report, it was estimated that winter 2013-2014 flooding had a £831 million price tag for small UK businesses. Additionally, it stated that by the 2050s, “expected annual damages are projected to increase between 26% and 68%, equivalent to a £150 million to £400 million increase.”

Flood insurance, then, is becoming increasingly vital for UK businesses. Many agree that, at some point, a policy will pay for itself. There are precautions that can be taken, of course, but having a plan ready is arguably the best defence.

Changing temperatures affect water levels, but they also affect work-place environments.  In Australia, where summer temperatures regularly climb into the 30s, productivity drops sharply, costing businesses $6.2 billion U.S. dollars, according to the BBC.

It is unlikely most businesses will ever find a temperature that leaves everyone entirely happy, but being aware that a discrepancy in desired temperatures exists can be helpful, making leaders more aware of individual’s comfort needs. It may also be useful to purchase small desk fans for employees who complain of the office always being too hot, if the rest of your employees prefer it warm. It is reasonable for employees to bring in sweaters, but there needs to be a cooling option available as well.

Solar PanelsTo power those fans, UK businesses could consider solar panels. The panels assist with slowing environmental changes, as they use the sun’s rays rather than solely electricity; they can also save your business money, as there are government incentive programs in place to encourage the use of cleaner energy. Your exact discounts and rebates will vary depending on your business’ size and location, but it is worth considering.

Similarly, van-based businesses can consider investing in electric or hybrid vehicles to save on petrol expenses. There may be tax credits or reductions available for ‘Green Businesses’ that take steps to reduce their carbon footprint by utilizing hybrid vans.

The global climate may seem slightly bleak, but there are steps UK businesses can take to ensure they are prepared for it. It is also vital to remember that any changes are going to be gradual, altering at an incredibly slow pace, so there is no need to panic. If your business is not considering its environmental impact, you can begin now; if you’re just founding your business, you have plenty of time to implement an environmental consciousness plan and be prepared for any problems that may arise.

On the flipside, if you are looking to begin your business now, perhaps you could open a green solutions or clean energy business, helping other businesses realize their green potential! There are plenty of businesses that could benefit from such services, so the market is quite considerable.

Whatever the environment does, UK consumers will still need services you can offer! So craft your plan, run your business, and aid your clients!
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