Saving the world might save your company

Article

Saving the world might save your company

Sustainability strengthens the need for business continuity and vice versa

The COVID-19 crisis is unlikely to be the last major business disruption as climate change will have a major impact on business continuity in the coming years. Accordingly, business continuity management is more important than ever. As organizations scramble to continue their operations, it is those that look beyond the short term that will be ready for the future.

By Jurgen Schot and Tim Moolhuijsen

It is evident that the global risk landscape is changing rapidly and becoming less predictable. The Business Continuity Institute (BCI) highlights the emergence of new types of threats that continuity professionals have rarely encountered before. A key explanation for the emergence of new threats is the increasing impact climate change has on the business arena. In addition to the regular physical climate risks such as extreme weather and sea level rise, it is becoming clear that there are many unforeseen consequences to climate change. For example, research suggests climate change increases the likelihood of zoonotic virus spillover and pandemic occurrence. In light of this, the BCI and Siemens estimate that climate change is the biggest threat to business continuity this century.

Part of climate change’s big impact on continuity is due to the fact that vital business processes and systems are increasingly interconnected. One small disruption can lead to previously unknown consequences which transfer to many other systems and regions. A high proportion of organizations do not have plans in place to deal with these disruptions, yet early adoption of climate risk integration can contribute strongly to safeguarding your organization’s business continuity.

Although it appears straightforward, incorporating climate risks is a daunting task. It is very common for people to feel overwhelmed or even powerless facing climate associated risks. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to protect your organization against them. We therefore highlight three measures against climate change business disruption:

Saving the world might save your company

1. Collaboration for continuity: align your resilience and sustainability strategy.

Is there expertise on sustainability or climate change within your company and is this knowledge shared with your resilience professionals? Aligning your sustainability and resilience strategy is a great way to protect your business against climate change disruption. A good starting point can be to connect sustainability officers to key stakeholders in the field of general risk management and business continuity planning.

2. Ensure you have both a BCMS and a Sustainability framework in place (1), that they are aligned (2), and continuity and sustainability professionals are aware of both frameworks (3).

Many organizations already have a Business Continuity Management System (BCMS) in place. Having such a system has shown to decrease the number of business continuity incidents in 2019 . However, the same should hold for a sustainability framework. If your organization does not yet have either frameworks, it could be useful to explore what these frameworks can offer. Individually, they can already be advantageous, but there are significant mutual benefits to obtain from aligning your BCMS and sustainability frameworks.

3. Ensure that risk assessments incorporate climate risks both in the short- and the long-term.

Our third recommendation is to make sure that climate risks are included in your risk assessments. Evaluating current and future climate risks that are relevant for all locations and your supply chain, and mapping their impact both on a local and operational level can be very helpful to reveal your organization’s continuity weaknesses. Within this assessment, it is important to make sure global risks are translated into local risks and consequences.

Concluding remarks

All hands are currently on deck to protect ourselves and our economy against COVID-19, however climate change is expected to have impacts of a similar scale, if not larger. It is clear that organizations cannot adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach with regard to sustainability, instead they have to adapt and become resilient. Or, to put it more strongly, in the words of the BCI: “organizations have a simple choice – adapt or disappear”.

More information?

If you are interested in this topic and would like to have more information you can read our article on Climate Change and Business Continuity. Do you have any questions or do you want to discuss opportunities, feel free to reach out to Harvey Christophers, Frédérique Demenint or Jurgen Schot via the contact details below.

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