Lessons on Resilience Collaboration

Climate impacts are, and will continue to be felt throughout supply chains, across economic sectors, and across town and state lines, posing different challenges for businesses, communities and non-profits.  To take advantage of the opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned, climate professionals from those sectors met at the 2018 Climate Leadership Conference to participate in a track of discussions and workshops dedicated to the climate resilience.

Some of the stories, lessons, and needs discussed at the conference offer distinct perspectives on those best practices:

  1. Even companies and communities that are just getting started in preparing for climate change are not starting from scratch. They’re using the resources and lessons from previous risk mitigation, sustainability and other efforts and capitalizing on existing partnerships between the public and private sector. For instance, Mars Inc. described their next step as connecting the company’s existing risk mitigation and sustainability departments for a cross-functional exchange to incorporate climate change into risk management.
  2. Resilience or adaptation should not be a new department, silo, or standalone plan. Mars Inc.’s example also highlights the importance of treating climate change differently than other challenges. Because impacts cut across business operations, resilience should be threaded through existing plans for emergencies, risk management, and facility-siting, among others. PG&E shared that it has changed its mission and values to encompass resilience, and is working to bring that consideration and focus through all of its work, instead of creating a separate climate resilience unit.
  3. Sustainability and resilience often complement each other, but addressing conflicts between the two objectives can be challenging. For example, careful water usage can build more resilience to drought. In other instances, tension between the two objectives can arise. Choosing only environmentally or socially responsible suppliers can narrow a supply base, with the potential result of making some components of a supply chain more vulnerable to local climate impacts.
  4. Economic resilience looks different for every city. Meg Arnold, Managing Director of the economic development non-profit, Valley Vision, shared an analysis of Sacramento, California, where small businesses are key to both employment and economic production. There are about 60,000 businesses operating in the Sacramento metropolitan area, and nearly half of private sector jobs are with small businesses, which are also especially vulnerable to climate impacts and other disruptions. To help address this cascading economic vulnerability, Valley Vision found that outreach to small businesses should focus on short-term risk and provide pro-bono consulting. Companies also know that their resilience is defined by that of the city and of their employees. United Technologies is working to understand it’s exposure and vulnerability to extreme weather by analyzing flood risks posed to its employees at home.
  5. Resilience efforts must include the most vulnerable: A panel on collaborative resilience planning for local economies discussed the opportunity to advance social equity and elevate the importance of climate resilience for communities. This effort is critical because underserved populations are disproportionately impacted by climate change. In a plenary session, an audience member asked Mustafa Santiago Ali, the Senior Vice President of Climate, Environment, Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus how communities beginning to write climate action plans can also accomplish their equity goals. Ali told the audience, “It has always been about honoring the voice of communities and getting them engaged in the process early… make sure that there’s continual education and check-ins to make sure that you’re moving in the right direction.”

These stories are encouraging, but the conference also showed that there is unfinished work for companies and communities to fully understand climate risk, decide which proactive actions to take, and share lessons with those facing similar challenges and barriers. C2ES looks forward to hosting some of this future learning and conversation through city workshops, research on resilience strategies, and by supporting of the Department of Energy Partnership for Resilience, which is advancing adoption of resilience best practices and facilitating peer-to-peer learning and information sharing among electric utilities.