Climate change is a long-term shift in the Earth’s typical weather patterns, with temperatures rising and the occurrence of extreme storms increasing.
In 2019, the UN claimed we only have 11 years left to prevent permanent damage from climate change. Unfortunately, many world leaders have failed to take the issue seriously, leading many to believe this prediction will become an inevitability.
Businesses, especially small ones, cannot function properly without adequate weather conditions, as unpredictable events can impact operations and potentially lead to shutdowns.
Plus, companies contribute to climate change, and many have the power to positively or negatively affect the environment.
If you’re a small-business owner planning for the future, consider how climate change will alter your operations.
As the effects of climate change begin to worsen, governments may implement a mitigation response. However, they’ll likely pass on the costs to businesses, which can add up fast for small operations who often don’t have a financial plan. For instance, they may require companies to use green energy, such as solar, wind or geothermal power. Unfortunately, the startup costs for these systems can range in the tens of thousands.
Another factor is insurance. Disaster insurance can help cover repair costs and lost revenue in the event of a flood, earthquake, tornado or other extreme weather events. However, these policies are often expensive. Plus, as these disasters increase in frequency, prices will likely rise.
As climate change rages on, you and your employees may get sick and injured more often. The rise in pollution will increase allergens in the air, leading to more cases of respiratory disease. Water and food supplies will become scarce and possibly contaminated, which can cause malnutrition and disease.
Ecological changes will bring a rise in infectious diseases, such as malaria and Lyme disease. The extreme heat will lead to illness and potential deaths. Plus, the decline of the environment itself will cause mental stress and anguish. The overall result of these changes will be fewer hours of productive work and higher health care costs.
As the temperatures increase, we’ll likely see more droughts. Sea levels will rise, leading to more hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, and expose higher locations to the erosive forces of currents and waves. The warmer water temperatures will increase the speeds of tropical storms. Additional water vapor that evaporates into the atmosphere will also fuel powerful weather events.
Businesses can’t prevent these issues, but they can take steps to prepare. They should outline a list of procedures all employees should take in the event of a disaster. For instance, you may include guidelines on whether to evacuate the building or stay put, along with how to contact outside emergency assistance.
Many businesses may choose to alter their building’s design to cope with the rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Some may want to build safe rooms, which can withstand the 250 mph winds of tornados and the rain loads of hurricanes. Others may incorporate structural steel elements, such as beams and plates, to withstand high winds and earthquakes.
Business owners can make their buildings watertight by adding a sealant to the walls and shields to openings to minimize the impact of flooding. When it comes to the interior, you can opt for furniture straps and anchors to prevent the threat of heavy moving objects from injuring employees. These straps can keep items like bookcases, desks and filing cabinets in place.
Climate change will have a significant impact on the economy and individuals. Natural disasters can cause costly repairs, displacement, job loss and other adverse outcomes. The scarcity of food and water resources may cause prices to soar. Poor health can lead to high medical costs.
As climate change worsens and people begin to feel the economic effects, they’ll have less money to spend on goods and services. This issue will be especially prominent in areas that rely on tourism, such as beaches, as people may not have the resources to travel.
Today’s consumers are acutely aware of the looming issue of climate change. According to one global survey, 81% of respondents strongly believe companies should do their part to improve the environment. By adopting preventive practices, you can cater to this growing demographic and minimize your business’s negative impact.
To start, reduce your company’s waste as much as possible. Eliminate paper handouts, cut back on single-use plastics and establish an office-wide recycling program. Swap out your light bulbs for LEDs, which use less energy, and invest in a smart thermostat. You can also decrease your travel — which puts carbon dioxide into the air, a prominent greenhouse gas — by opting for virtual meetings.
Prepare for Climate Change’s Impacts Today
Even if we take action today, climate change will undoubtedly impact small businesses in the near future. If you run a small-scale operation, consider how you can start preparations, minimize costs and keep your employees safe.