After identifying priority risks, there are several strategies that can be implemented. This depends on how an organization views climate change and the associated risks for their business.
There are typically two primary approaches that can inform risk reduction strategies:
- Seeing it as its own specific challenge/ task – how can we continue to provide the same service under a changing climate?
- Seeing it as one factor that needs to be included in a review or investment decision – part of regular planning
Once an organization identifies the appropriate approach to addressing climate change risk, there are several strategies to consider:
1. Addressing current vulnerabilities
This strategy involves taking action to reduce the impact of current climate change risks for an organization. For example, a business may regularly experience flooding or stormwater runoff issues during large precipitation events. Addressing this current vulnerability would allow the company to reduce the impact of similar risks happening in the future. Though this strategy may be informed through past precipitation events, it fails to account for future climate change risks and uncertainty and would not address risks presented by more extreme weather events.
2. Planning for potential futures
Planning for potential futures involves the use of scenarios to help businesses capture the wide range of uncertainty inherent in the future. With no way to predict exactly what the future holds, scenarios offer companies a range of potential futures to assess and prepare for. Scenarios differ from forecasts in that they provide a longer-term vision of multiple outcomes based on different possible or plausible sequences of events. Forecasts on the other hand, typically provide a near-term vision of a singular outcome based on past assumptions. Only through the inclusion of multiple scenarios can businesses capture a broader range of uncertainty and potential risks.
Once a wide range of potential or plausible futures and risks is identified, an organization is better able to prioritize risk interventions based on its risk appetite. This strategy involves taking actions today to prepare for the risks and impacts of tomorrow, and grapples with radical uncertainty of risks that may not fully materialize as planned for. Through capturing a range of potential risks in different scenarios, companies can identify the appropriate steps to take for protection against potential outlier events and worst-case scenarios.
For example, through the review of several scenarios, an organization may identify that in a 2°C warmer world, the occurrence and intensity of a 1-in-100-year storm is expected to increase significantly. Though there is uncertainty in the exact timing or location of such storms, as well as in how much global temperatures will warm, the organization decides that the potential occurrence of 1-in-100-year storm presents a significant risk to their operations and distribution network. By assessing potential scenarios, this organization can identify its most critical vulnerabilities and take actions to prepare its business for these potential events by updating organizational procedures and policies and investing in appropriate equipment, upgrades, and training.
To support local planning decision-makers in preparing for plausible climate futures, the Great Lakes integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA) collaborative partnered with city adaptation practitioners in the Great Lakes to produce a set of scenarios. The climate concerns included in the scenario modeling include flooding, runoff, heat stress and emphasize business owners as a key stakeholder in scenario planning. Although geared to municipalities, businesses may benefit from GLISA’s scenario resources for their own climate adaptation planning: Future Climate Scenarios for Great Lakes Cities | GLISA.
3. Continuous monitoring and adjustment
A more adaptive approach to risk reduction would involve a strategy that continuously monitors and adjusts to climate change risks based on continuously updated scenarios and data. For example, this could involve regularly generating and assessing future scenarios to identify potential risks or changes in current risks to the organization. Through regular monitoring of potential changes in climate change risk, they may be able to make the appropriate adjustments to mitigate the risk. Some risks may change as aspects of the business change or as more data becomes available. This strategy may involve significant time and resource commitments that may not be available to all companies as it requires regular assessment of climate change risk. More frequent monitoring of risk may allow a company to make earlier adjustments. However, this also requires a company to have the appropriate level of flexibility and agility to make the required adjustments.
4. Implement mutually beneficial measures
Another strategy that helps to account for the uncertainty of potential risk interventions is the implementation of mutually beneficial measures. An organization may decide that the best climate change risk interventions are the ones that provide additional benefits for their organization. For example, enhancing a building’s resilience to extreme heat waves through improved HVAC systems, window films, and planting trees on surrounding corporate green space can provide the additional benefits of energy savings and employee comfort and satisfaction. Through this approach, an organization capitalizes on win-win measures that address current needs while helping to address potential future risks.
Each of the strategy listed above has its own pros and cons and will depend on an organizations risk appetite and ability to cope with the identified climate change risks. Businesses should consider the strategy best suited to their needs and capabilities.
Once an organization identifies the appropriate approach to addressing climate change risk, there are several strategies to consider, including strategic planning for potential future scenarios, monitoring operations and adjusting to data results or scenario changes, or implementing mutually beneficial measures. Whether your business picks one strategy or adopts a combination of several, the important thing is having a game plan so operations can adapt to climate change challenges.
Partners in Project Green’s Building a Climate Resilient Business Resource Kit provides a foundation in the basics of current climate science, the impacts of climate change on businesses, and mitigation and adaptation strategies. Please explore these resources and connect with us to advance your organization’s climate resiliency.
 Arnell, N. 2015. A Short Guide to Climate Change Risk. Routledge, 1st Edition.
 Dembo, R. 2021. Risk Thinking… In An Uncertain World. Archway Publishing. Print.