Small Business Climate Resilience Series Part 2:
Have a Plan
By Kate Galbo, Programs Manager
New research shows the importance of preparing for the impacts of climate change. In a new report, the Union of Concerned Scientists mapped the rate of sea-level rise for the first time for hundreds of coastal communities. The online map allows viewers to zoom in from a bird’s eye view all the way down to the street level. The report creates a timeline when sea-level rise is projected to inundate various percentages of coastal communities.
Their analysis found that by mid-century, five communities in greater Boston will face chronic flooding (also known as chronic inundation) every other week on average. These are communities that have yet to experience extensive flooding today, and thus, are likely not prepared for regular impacts.
Small Businesses Play Critical Role in Climate Resilience
While large-scale solutions are critical, they are often limited and costly. Individuals, businesses, and policymakers must work on the community level to prepare for climate impacts. Small businesses have a critical role to play in building climate resilience into their business strategies. For the past two decades, small businesses have been responsible for creating two out of every three new jobs. This positions the small business sector as critical to the strength of the economy, and essential participants in preparing for climate change.
That is why in 2016, CABA launched our Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (BARS) campaign to educate the local business community about sea level rise and extreme weather. The 10-week campaign distributed information about climate adaptation and strategies to increase climate preparedness within the business community. Each business received a resilience guide consisting of eight straightforward steps a business could take to increase their resiliency.
Small Businesses are not Prepared for Climate Change
In addition to enhanced resilience of the local business community, the BARS campaign used the opportunity of face-to-face communication to conduct a survey that reveals small businesses’ relationship with climate change. The results were concerning, suggesting that 80% of the businesses we talked to were not prepared for an extreme weather event. In last week’s post, we discussed the importance of knowing the risks climate change poses to your business operations. In this week’s post, we will talk about planning ahead.
Small businesses have unique challenges when it comes to climate change impacts, making it important to plan ahead. Small businesses simply do not possess the human and financial capital needed to protect infrastructure required for business continuity. Small businesses are especially vulnerable and can suffer lasting economic damage as a result of a single extreme weather event. The communication, supply, and revenue challenges associated with such storms are barriers to reopening for many businesses. For example, of the 60,000 to 100,000 small businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy, up to 30% went out of business due to the storm.
Develop an emergency plan
It is crucial to know what to do when a critical situation strikes, to prevent infrastructural damage or missed work days. Developing a step-by-step emergency plan is a good place to start. ‘Emergency plan’ is an umbrella term relating to any management plan developed to alleviate the damage of potential dangerous events that would hinder a business’s ability to function. Such plans contain step-by-step strategies, including information on communications, transportation and operating procedures. There should always be at least one person on the ground who knows the exact standard operating procedures in case of emergency. Have a disaster supply kit ready at all times. Check out Ready.Gov for disaster specific preparedness tips.
Plan for Different Types of Risk
When developing an emergency plan, it’s important to remember that climate change is multifaceted. There are many different types of climate change impacts, so you should plan for different types of risk. Sea level rise could damage infrastructure or transportation routes, leaving your business with damaged stock or without much-needed supplies. Extreme heat could suppress sales and increase your energy costs. Knowing which impacts are pertinent to you can help you develop an emergency plan that is comprehensive.
Know your Insurance Policy
Not all emergency planning needs to be internal. Make sure you know your insurance policy and whether it covers damages caused by extreme weather events. Not all general insurance includes flood insurance. Low-lying coastal areas are prone to flooding, and if your business is located in a floodplain (which you should know after determining your risk), you may need a separate flood insurance.
Preparing your business for climate impacts, through comprehensive emergency planning and inclusive insurance policies, serves to benefit your employees, your customer base, and your community. Not only will having an emergency plan protect your operations, but it could improve customer loyalty. If your business is prepared for a heat wave, for example, it may act as a cooling center for the locals, providing additional value through this [sometimes life-saving] service.
This blog post is part of our Small Business Climate Resilience Series to help small businesses prepare for the impacts of climate change. Tune in next week to learn about engaging your local community or read more about our BARS campaign. Check out our BARS Final Report to learn more about the survey we conducted with businesses in high-risk coastal communities.
About the author: Kate Galbo joined CABA in September of 2015 after receiving a degree in Environmental Policy and Analysis from Boston University. Previously, she conducted research for Policy Studies Institute to help bridge the gap between sustainable development research and society. Kate has previously interned for other Massachusetts non-profit organizations. As Programs Manager, Kate focuses on engaging with our member businesses to take targeted policy action, achieve meaningful emissions reductions, and foster a sense of community.