Exclusive: commercial opportunities being overlooked says Defra climate change adaptation report
Businesses are failing to realise the commercial advantages to be gained from adapting to climate change, according to a new Defra report seen exclusively by edie before its publication on Friday.
Companies in some sectors were found to accept the idea that the climate is changing and that clients want solutions, new products and services as a result. This is particularly prevalent for those in the building industry, where businesses are actively developing new consultancy programmes and resources specifically based around climate change adaptation to help drive new product development and differentiate from competitors.
However, there are plenty of other businesses focusing solely on the risks resulting from climate change, rather than the opportunities, the report concludes.
The report, 'Climate Change Adaptation: Risk and Opportunities for Businesses in the South East of England', was compiled by sustainable behaviour change agency Corporate Culture on behalf of Defra. It is due to be published on Friday.
Speaking to edie.net, Corporate Culture director of insight Belinda Miller said businesses have nothing to be ashamed of in trying to benefit commercially from climate change adaptation - measures which aim to deal with the consequences of climate change, rather than mitigate it.
"The majority of UK businesses are still prioritizing the short-term and the risks that will come with climate change, rather than the opportunities. We are in this world, the climate is changing and they need to ask themselves where the opportunities are for their businesses."
Ms Miller's team interviewed business leaders of global Fortune 500 blue-chip companies and smaller, UK-based companies across the South East in five target sectors identified as particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts: food and beverage, chemical manufacturing, extractive industries, tourism and the built environment.
The report found that companies working in the built environment were the ones "most likely" to focus on opportunities from climate change, rather than risks. Often the changes were driven by changing client demands, which is where other sectors suffered.
Ms Miller said businesses needed to see a clear commercial opportunity from adaption to provide a compelling imperative to take action now. Adaptation should be made easy [...] focusing on "what companies can do now without the need for lots of expensive consultants [and additional resource]. The advice also needs to be sector-specific," she added.
Defra will be using the insights to drive more businesses to climate change adaptation through a behavior change campaign. Commenting on the findings, Environment Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said: "Smart firms who take action now will be able to ensure the resilience of their business and supply chain, and explore avenues for new products and markets that will open up as the world's climate changes."