Top environmental issues are centered on climate change these days. Greenhouse gas emissions, which accelerate global warming, are at a level that significantly exceeds the highest concentrations in ice cores ever recorded, according to Business Insider. The U.S. was already spending a billion dollars on climate disruption in 2013, including drought- and storm- related costs, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
As climate change continues, the costs have nowhere to go but up. This includes the cost of doing business. With top environmental issues becoming increasingly urgent, all kinds of businesses will suffer, including your own. The following five issues are the most likely to affect your business going forward.
1. Demographic Displacement
Rising sea levels are one of the top environmental factors that threaten business as usual. Your marketing department has the flexibility to follow its target market from north to south, urban to rural, but vast migrations of people in coastal cities would be difficult if not impossible to track, especially when they are fleeing flooding or the threat of severe storms. Natural disasters brought about by a warming planet could cause the disintegration of your company’s client base.
Similarly, residents of areas experiencing severe drought will be displaced and forced to relocate, further disrupting your company’s carefully planned marketing outreach. In addition, the World Health Organization reports an increase in infectious disease due to climate change that would certainly affect consumer markets.
2. Shifting Food Supply
Agriculture and fisheries depend upon specific climatic conditions, according to the EPA. Warming seawater is bringing about shifts in ocean ecosystems. If you own a restaurant, provide food service or cater executive events, scarcity of shellfish, salmon, halibut, tuna and other ocean catches will force menu changes and ultimately make it more difficult for you to supply your clientele.
Climate change affects crop yields, too, causing shortages in the food supply chain as well as losses for farmers. Business Insider reports that as much as 63 percent of the world’s top wine-growing regions may be in jeopardy by mid-century because grapes are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature.
Drought conditions are already driving changes in agricultural regions. Over the next few decades, global warming will negatively affect most crops and livestock, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers will be forced to adjust to the warming environment by making changes in the crops they grow. The stress of increasing temperatures is likely to influence the growth, fertility and performance of livestock raised for food. Costs for comestibles will rise, and supplies are likely to become scarce. Business owners will need agility to keep pace.
Direct and indirect increases in the cost of food and goods typically follow supply shortages, and inflation affects all aspects of the economy, according to Schwab. Runaway inflation spells bad news for investors because yields cannot keep pace with costs.
Time magazine reports that researchers project a 23 percent drop in the average salary by 2100 due to climate change. It follows that the average business will experience a drop in revenue as well. Throughout the world, productivity depends on a climate that fosters those conditions where people perform the best. Rising temperatures are likely to affect how well people can do their jobs, how hard they are able to work and how effective they can be.
The choice right now is not one of the economy or the environment. Instead, it is a matter of protecting the environment to safeguard the future economy. If the federal government took steps now to mitigate future inflation due to a changing climate, it might be able to minimize economic crisis. If it does nothing, it will pay double once the economy reacts to the disruption of warming temperatures.
The uncertainty that climate change brings about is one of the most compelling ways the environment will affect your business, according to Triple Pundit. With business and industry unable or unwilling to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to the level that would significantly slow climate change, the future is uncertain and risky. The type, timing, locations and magnitude of changes due to global warming are difficult to predict and even harder to prepare for. Many businesses are likely to hunker down until these effects become clear, slowing the economy and precluding growth. Others may take leaps of faith that do not pan out, thus experiencing significant losses.
Civil unrest will increase with the uncertainty of a changing climate. Compounded with rising sea levels that cause displacement and drought that exacerbates famine and disease, civil unrest disrupts business as usual with looting, theft and destruction of property. If your establishment is a storefront, it could suffer physical destruction. If it is online, it could be hacked and your customers’ sensitive personal information stolen. When crisis triggers people’s survival instincts, fear and uncertainty drives aberrant behavior and lawlessness.
Depending upon the kind of business you own, you may need to budget for equipment upgrades or retrofits to make it cleaner and greener, according to Investopedia. Throughout the world, leaders are pledging to reduce those emissions that insulate the earth and accelerate climate change. If you own a delivery business, for example, you may face replacement of your fleet with hybrid or electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions. If you are in manufacturing, you may have to retrofit your machinery to comply with stricter environmental regulations. For more ideas on making your business greener, you should read our post on 9 must-have products to go green at work.
The U.S. alone must cut 80 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions, and that represents a big expense for taxpayers, according to the National Resources Defense Council. It projects that the cost of water for the nation will near the trillion dollar mark by the year 2100, an over four-fold increase compared to today. The expense of real estate losses will multiply by a factor of 10 and storm damage by a factor of 40.
Top environmental factors that will affect your business include storms, loss of resources, inflation, and scarcity of food and water. These economic concerns are likely to be secondary to the risks to human health. As NRDC states, the longer people wait to address these factors, the more expensive a final solution will be – for the economy, for society and for the earth itself.