How is climate change going to affect how I run my small business?

Chloe Bell
By Chloë Bell, Content Journalist

Running a business in an ever-changing world can be tough, especially when you’re just trying to keep ‘business as usual’. However, what are we supposed to do when the Earth decides that business won’t run as usual? 

Debated for its existence and impact, climate change has become a huge figure in the way businesses work and should work in the future. With this handy Bionic guide, we’ll take a look at how climate change can affect your small business and how to tackle it head-on.

What is climate change?

Formally referred to as global warming, climate change refers to the long-term shifts that we’re currently experiencing in the Earth's temperatures and weather patterns. 

Although some argue that these shifts are natural, human activity has been one of the primary drivers of climate change. Activities such as burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas), mismanagement of waste and the unsustainable harvesting of natural resources have caused a climate crisis through the effect of greenhouse gases. 

Ongoing analysis from leading NASA scientists states that the Earth's average global temperature has increased by at least 1.1°C since 1880. 

A group of people hold 'save the environment' signs up

Why is climate action so urgent?

In just the past few decades, the planet has seen:

  • Rising temperatures due to adverse and worsened weather events
  • Wildfire season lasting for months longer than usual
  • Coral reefs have been bleached of their bright colours
  • Chunks of ice in the Antarctic have broken apart

A warmer world, even by half-a-degree Celcius, has more evaporation, leading to more water in the atmosphere. With such changing conditions that humans, animals and the planet aren’t accustomed to, it’s putting our health, water supply and agriculture at risk.

What are the risks of climate change?

There are three main risks of climate change that will affect everyone, not just businesses. 

1. Physical risks

The physical risks of climate change are any immediate threats that come from the physical environment. Events such as wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and droughts are all symptoms of climate change that can and will cause an impact on a global level. 

The skiing industry, for example, is already seeing an immediate threat from climate change as rising temperatures reduce snowfall, meaning resorts have shorter seasons.

2. Liability risks

Climate litigation is increasing worldwide, and liability risks arise when companies fail to adapt to, mitigate, disclose or comply with the ever-changing legal and regulatory requirements. There’s also an even greater focus being placed on this from regulators and investors who want to ensure that the businesses that they’re supporting are complying with this landscape. 

3. Transitional risks

Transitional risks are any potential costs to businesses that could come from the introduction of laws, policies and other regulations that address climate change.

The energy and mining sectors are the biggest industries that are most likely to be impacted by transitional risks. With the global push for greener energy sources, governments are facing increasing pressure to shift toward a reliance on renewable energy — meaning the energy sector has to find a solution and implement it. 

Precious metals could be at financial risk from policies that introduce carbon prices. The negative effects of mining on the environment and the climate are increasingly becoming a reputational issue for mining companies and investors.

Why is it important for my business to care about the risks of climate change? 

As climate change transforms the way that consumers, employees and shareholders interact with businesses, it’s become vital to incorporate climate change into their strategic plans. A warming planet creates a wide range of risks for businesses, from labour challenges to rising costs of supply chains and added disruption. Extreme weather conditions such as floods and fires have a direct impact on 70% of all economic sectors worldwide

By taking action now, businesses can lower the risks that come from climate change and even take advantage of opportunities that a green future makes — failure to do so will undermine the sustainability of the business.

How can climate change affect my business?

Climate change isn’t just an environmental problem — it’s inextricably linked to nearly everything that we do as a society, and we’re already seeing these consequential shifts within businesses. Some of the most prominent ways that climate change will affect businesses include:

Increased risk due to extreme weather conditions

The risk of extreme weather events like storms, floods, heatwaves and droughts has caused major disruption to business operations — and it’s only going to get worse as temperatures increase. 

From this disruption comes extreme financial and physical damage, meaning businesses are having to fork out of their own pockets to replace goods and fix issues. Severe weather is a primary reason that climate change increases risks for businesses as well, and because of this risk, insurance prices are on the rise, meaning businesses will have to pay more. 

Harsher working conditions

As weather patterns change and we see temperatures rise, certain sectors may see harsher working conditions. Jobs that require physical labour — particularly outdoors — such as airport ramp agents or outdoor activity instructors, will become more challenging.

With these challenges also comes a rise in health and safety risks. Learn more about protecting yourself and your employees in the workplace with our health and safety guide.

Change in cost and resource availability

Extreme weather events have the potential to disrupt supply chains, meaning getting the stock of materials or resources to businesses has become even more of a challenge. For eateries or businesses that sell food and drink, severe droughts and weather pattern changes have caused shortages in crops, meaning food scarcity has increased. 

Rising transportation and electricity costs may also increase the cost of moving goods, charging this back to businesses and causing price increases for the customer.

Increased public pressure

As the public grows more conscious and accepting of the facts of climate change, it becomes less acceptable for businesses that fail to reduce their impact on the environment. 

Consumers are actively searching for businesses that produce sustainable products or have a smaller environmental impact compared to other companies or products on the same level. 

There’s also increased public pressure on companies to take steps to become more socially responsible in their operations, be more environmentally friendly and donate to positive environmental charities. Major brands like IKEA, Apple, LEGO and Starbucks have all committed to producing 100% renewable energy

But as public pressure increases, some businesses hop on the bandwagon and make claims about their green future — without ever committing to it.  

How much is the UK responsible for climate change?

It’s tempting to think that the UK, with it only being a small collection of islands, couldn’t possibly be as much to blame for climate change as bigger countries such as America or China. But, that isn’t always the case.

The UK is actually one of the biggest contributors to global warming over time. This is due to our long history of generating greenhouse gases, which dates back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution — creating emissions in both the US and the UK in the eighteen and nineteenth centuries.  

A study conducted by Oxfam found that European and North American countries currently consume more, and have higher emissions per person, on average compared to people in China or India who have larger populations. 

What has the UK government committed to do about climate change?

Politicians in the UK have known about climate change and its consequences for years — with some still refusing to acknowledge this. However, the UK government has put certain measures in place to tackle climate change.

The Climate Change Act 2008

The UK was the first country in the world to create a legally-binding commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Known as ‘The Climate Change Act 2008’, the government committed, by law, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. In 2019, this target was amended to achieve net zero emissions (100%) by the same time frame. 

The Committee on Climate Change

The CCC — The Committee on Climate Change — advises the government on emissions targets and reports to Parliament on the progress that has been made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Climate Change Committee has an important role in monitoring the actions taken by the government and undertakes an annual assessment of whether the UK is on course to meet its carbon budgets. 

Emissions rose 4% in 2021 compared with those in 2020

What can businesses do to help climate change?

There are simple ways that businesses can help in the fight against climate change — even small differences can make a big impact!

1. Reduce energy consumption

Focusing on energy reduction can result in big wins for businesses — both in terms of cost savings and sustainability.

If you’re looking into how to make your business energy efficient, most companies look toward simple solutions like updating to LED lights and properly optimising heating and cooling systems, as well as installing energy-efficient products.

If you're unsure how much energy your business should be using, our guide to average business energy usage should have the answers.

If you work in or manage an office and want to find out how to make it more energy-efficient, check out our handy guide

2. Choose sustainable suppliers

As companies work to make their business greener, they must look toward their supplier line to see the action that they’re taking. You can’t claim to be working toward a sustainable future but still get supplies that are made or become unsustainable somewhere along the line. 

Ensuring that any suppliers you work with are sustainable means that sustainability remains a priority throughout the entire supply chain. 

3. Minimise business travel

Business travel is one of the biggest contributors to a business's high rate of emissions. 

Normalised by the Covid-19 pandemic, shared online drives and online video calls have played a huge part in helping to reduce business travel — making it easier for businesses to reach staff, customers and suppliers alike.

If travel is required and the destination is close, public transport like buses, trains and trams can help in reducing carbon emissions.

Get your business set with Bionic

At the end of the day, we all want to see our businesses flourish the right way whilst protecting the Earth as best as we can. From understanding climate change to the simple steps businesses can take, our guide can help.

Get in touch today with the Bionic team to discuss your needs or get more information on business finance