Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience

As we saw once again in 2014—the warmest year globally on record—increases in extreme weather and other climate-related impacts are imposing significant costs on society. Even as governments, companies and communities strengthen efforts to reduce emissions contributing to climate change, they are awakening to the urgent need to address growing climate impacts. Across the United States, governments at all levels are taking steps to strengthen climate resilience. Simultaneously, a growing number of companies are recognizing extreme weather and climate change as present or future business risks. For many companies, these rising risks extend well beyond the “fence line” to critical supply chains and infrastructure, and can be effectively managed only in partnership with the public sector.

In 2013, C2ES released Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change (hereafter WTS 2013), which examined how companies listed in the Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Global 100 Index were approaching climate risks. WTS 2013 provided a baseline perspective on how major companies were assessing their climate vulnerabilities and whether and how they were working to strengthen their climate resilience. This report provides an update and takes a closer look at how companies are preparing for climate change and what is keeping them from doing more.

The report is based on several lines of research:

  • A comprehensive review of the perspectives and activities of S&P Global 100 companies, based on their reporting to CDP1 and their corporate sustainability reports and annual financial filings;
  • Interviews with company representatives to gather more detailed information on whether and how companies are assessing climate risks and what barriers are keeping them from doing more; and
  • Dialogues conducted with companies, federal and local government agencies, academics, and other stakeholders through several workshops and events focused on business resilience.

These sources provide an in-depth look at the state of climate risk assessment and resilience planning within the business community. While some companies have taken steps to assess risks and prepare their business for future climate changes, many companies face various internal and external challenges that hinder efforts toward greater climate resilience. This report identifies various approaches companies are using to address climate risks, examines challenges companies face in managing and reporting risks, and suggests strategies to overcome these challenges and strengthen climate risk management within the private sector.