Work & Wellbeing

Mitigating Risk: Why Environmental Factors Should Be High on the Agenda

Simon Crowther | 15 September 2021 | 3 years ago

As the climate changes, environmental factors will become a more pressing risk for businesses. Studies undertaken by the Committee on Climate Change have identified that the greatest direct climate change-related threats for the UK are large increases in flood risk, greater likelihood of exposure to high temperatures and heatwaves, water shortages, loss and detriment of wildlife and natural ecosystems, risks to domestic and international food production and trade, and from new and emerging pests and diseases.

Flooding experienced this summer has highlighted the devastating consequences that just one of these factors can have, with huge loss of life and destruction overseas, particularly in Germany, China and Belgium. The U.K has also experienced flash flooding on a lesser scale, but still with horrific impacts on home and business owners. It is a stark warning of what could be to come.

I have been involved in flood risk since my own home flooded 14 years ago, and have seen many floods but, unless things change, flooding and its impacts will become more frequent and extreme.

Consequences

When businesses are looking to mitigate risk, flood risk must be high on the agenda. 40% of businesses do not reopen after suffering a catastrophic loss due to flooding. Some businesses never recover simply because they do not have suitable contingency plans in place.

The impacts of flooding on a business can be both direct and indirect.

Direct consequences could include the business premised being flooded, leaving it out of action for weeks or months – especially if machinery is damaged.

Even where a business premises is shown to be at ‘very low’ flood risk it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily in the clear. A business may be at risk indirectly. This could include supply chain partners being affected by flooding, a staff member’s home being flooded, or even travel disruption due to extreme weather. Flooding can impact every one of us.

Preparation

To be as best prepared as possible for future environmental risks, businesses should take stock of not just their current operating procedures, but also their current premises. Many businesses do not have basic property information to hand, such as a drainage plan. Without knowing where the drains run, a blockage could remain unidentified or unresolved for a lengthy period of time, potentially causing unnecessary flooding.

Top 3 Recommendations for Flood Risk:

  1. Know your flood risk. I urge all businesses to check their flood risk. Whilst government flood maps do not provide the exact level of risk at a property level, they provide a good indication as to the likely risk. You can still be at risk of flooding even if you’re nowhere near a river!
  2. Implement a business continuity plan. Consider all aspects within this. If your premises are at flood risk, consider where you would work if the premises were flooded, consider what impact flooding or environmental factors could have on your supply chain and how you would react to this.
  3. Work with a flood risk consultant to establish whether the risk can be mitigated.

Case Study

We know that flooding causes huge disruption and damage, however by being prepared, the risk can be vastly reduced, and disruption managed. Historically, Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, has flooded regularly – causing devastating damage. Many businesses along the High Street have taken action to be better prepared, with some able to mop-up and reopen the very next day, as opposed to being closed for months. This has been achieved through careful risk reduction using Property Flood Resilience measures such as flood barriers and water pumps, whilst also utilising resilient internal fixtures and fittings such as waterproof flooring.

The Bigger Picture 

Whilst companies can look to mitigate risk to their own premises and supply chains, they can also take actions to assist on a much wider scale. This may include aspects such as:

  • Using public transport where possible for business travel
  • Improving energy efficiency
  • Implementing rainwater harvesting systems at their offices to assist with reducing water scarcity and reducing flood risk by limiting the water that enters a sewer network.
  • Installing solar panels or renewable technologies
 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how businesses need to be prepared for all kinds of risks. And whilst the pandemic is still rightly at the forefront of current business planning, assessing the risks of future disruption from environmental factors should not be ignored and left until it might be too late. The changing climate is warning us on an ever-more regular basis of what is to come and the time to act is now.

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