Weatherproofing your business

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In 2011, Thailand experienced its worst floods in over 50 years. More than 600 people died and its manufacturing industry in affected regions was devastated. GDP shrank by 9 per cent compared to what it had been a year earlier. While the flood waters have receded and some business is beginning to resume, the threat of future flooding looms. Thailand's science and technology minister, Plodprasop Surasawadi, told a Thai newspaper that he was “one million percent sure" there would be flooding again next year. He added that “this is a natural phenomenon that you cannot escape. We are living in a period of climate change.”

When manufacturers think about the impact of the climate on business continuity, flooding is perhaps one of the more obvious risks that spring to mind. But a climate change risk assessment for the UK, published by government late January, warns that a greater frequency of supply chain disruption and fluctuations in water availability are also risks to businesses as a result of changing weather patterns (something water abstracting manufacturers in the south east of England will be all to alert to with river levels at frighteningly low levels).

In short, it identifies six key challenges that manufacturers are likely to wrestle with: supply chain disruption, protection and maintenance of assets, operational integrity and process functionability, access to markets and shifting demand, regulatory compliance and business reputation. It warns that while a number of businesses, predominantly national and multi-national corporations, are taking climate change risks seriously, they are in the minority. It adds that manufacturers also have an opportunity to deliver products to help others adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Government is now working on a National Adaptation Programme, which is due to be published next year, which will respond to the high priority risks and opportunities that have been identified. Government wants to hear from manufacturers as it develops the programme: what are the most urgent areas for action for your business? What actions you are already taking to address risks? What are the key barriers that stop you addressing risk? And what new or innovative actions or opportunities have you explored for addressing risks.

Want to take part? Visit Defra's web-forum at http://engage.defra.gov.uk/nap

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