Don’t Get Caught in the Storm
Preparing Your Business for Extreme Weather and Climate Change
By Susan Labandibar, Tech Networks of Boston
Last winter, my colleagues and I came into the office after a long weekend to find crumbling ceilings and flooded rooms. On the third floor of our building, above our offices, pipes in an illegal shower froze and cracked in the sustained cold. When the heat came on Monday morning, water poured into our offices below and no one was there because we had the day off.
My business, Tech Networks of Boston, is a public benefit corporation that provides information technology services to nonprofit organizations, and a career pathway to disadvantaged youth. For over 21 years we’ve been located in Andrew Square, South Boston, but we spent most of 2016 cramped in temporary office space because of a burst pipe.
Tech Networks prides ourselves on our record for environmental sustainability. Yet we were unprepared for the record low temperatures that hit South Boston on this February weekend. On Saturday the temperature fell to -4 and on Sunday even lower still, to -9 degrees. This was an all time record low in Boston.
This is a small part of the damage that ensued. Eight months later we were still not back in our offices. A hidden subfloor lurking under the visible floor was the perfect breeding ground for mold, which spread all over the office. Ultimately, our landlord was forced to tear out parts of the floor and the walls, leading to a lengthy rebuild process.
Tech Networks is the proud recipient of two Green Business awards from the City of Boston. But environmental certifications don’t necessarily protect businesses from hazards associated with extreme weather events.
In 2015, another Boston Green Business award recipient suffered a massive blow to business operations when the roof of their building collapsed under the weight of abnormally heavy spring snows. This minority and woman-owned toner cartridge recycling business was not able to recover, just like so many other small businesses after a major disaster.
I recently interviewed several other business owners who have won green awards and certifications for their sustainability practices.
When I spoke to them, they were not in the mood to take credit for their accomplishments. Instead, they questioned whether they were doing enough, especially when it came to protecting their businesses from the effects of climate change.
And they are right to be worried. FEMA estimates that a stunning 40 percent of small businesses never reopen after a major disaster. Reports have found that U.S. small businesses are particularly at risk from extreme weather and climate change and must take steps to adapt.
Making your business more resilient with Climate Action Business Association
Taking steps to prepare your business for extreme weather can seem overwhelming, but Climate Action Business Association can help you through it. As a CABA member business, I have found their Small Business Resilience Guide to be particularly useful. The guide includes 8 steps you can take right now to make your business more resilient, and is a part of their Businesses Acting on Rising Seas initiative.
You may also consider becoming a CABA member business to gain access to their resources, guidance, and opportunities to take action. Membership is free, and you can sign up here.
The business owners I have interviewed see themselves as leaders in our community. Prepare your business for climate change so that you can continue to lead.