Business must future-proof against extreme weather
Companies must consider the risks and opportunities provided by more 'freak' weather patterns, according to business leaders.
The UK has been subjected to droughts and floods already this year, but while the economic impact is not yet known a new report suggests ill-prepared businesses will struggle to survive.
According to the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC) of the Committee on Climate Change, four times as many businesses and households could be at risk of flooding in the next 20 years.
The risks have been exacerbated through an increase in development in the flood plain and a reduction in private and public spending on flood defences.
Lord John Krebs, ASC chair, said adaptation to climate change, including floods and droughts, needed to be taken more seriously.
He encouraged more investment in flood defences, faster roll-out of water meters and urged "serious consideration to where and how we build our housing and infrastructure", adding: "Without action by households and businesses to prepare for these inevitable weather extremes the country faces rising costs, unnecessary damage and future disruption."
The Environment Agency estimates that funding on adaptation needs to increase by £20 million on top of inflation to keep pace with climate change. Responding to the ASC report, the Agency's chair Lord Smith said the weather extremes this year have brought the importance of resilience into sharp focus.
The food industry is particularly susceptible to changing weather patterns, but the British Retail Consortium said its members had "very resilient" supply chains in place, come rain, sun or snow.
A spokesman said: "Retailers are very much engaged in looking to the future and judging where future supplies are going to come from. They have also been at the forefront of [mitigating] climate change through reductions in their environmental impact."
The CBI, which has recommended that climate exposure be included in corporate reports, said there were opportunities for businesses to consider, as well as risks, regarding adaptation to climate change.
"Many UK firms are leading the way on adapting to climate change, and finding that with challenges come opportunities," said head of energy and climate change, Dr Matthew Brown.
"For instance, British expertise in water efficiency and insurance can boost bottom lines and create export markets - that's just one example of green business driving UK growth."
Since the start of May more than 3,000 properties have been flooded, 55,500 properties have received a flood warning from the Environment Agency and more than 31,000 properties were protected by flood defences, during what's now being referred to as the ongoing summer 2012 floods.
There have also been hosepipe bans in place and parts of the country have been classified as 'in drought'.
"We are a copywriting and communications company working throughout the UK from a very pretty, but extremely rural, location in Suffolk. In our 12 twelve months in business we were rained out, snowed in and thanks to high winds we were without telephones or internet access for several weeks. Three years on we have put contingency plans in place including cloud computing so the whole team (of eight) can work from home as if they were in the office, and have set up diversions on the office number so we can answer our calls anywhere. Even small businesses need to plan for climate change and assume that our future holds increasingly volatile weather conditions that are bound to affect where and how we work."
Kate Everett, partner, The Write Impression