August 26, 2020

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Joel Nodelman

Yes, Climate Action is Practical Core Business in 2020

About the author

Joel is an engineer and risk management specialist with over forty years of professional practice. He is committed to helping his clients achieve climate resiliency and sustainability.

This week, I ponder why climate action is practical, core business, even in 2020.

Joan and I are on a mission to help organizations manage climate risk and ensure business continuity. These are fancy words for a simple idea; surviving crisis. When we don't keep an eye on developing risks, bad things happen. This is a sure-fire way to stagger helplessly from one crisis to the next. That’s just bad for business.

Yes, Climate Action is Practical Core Business in 2020

Environment Action - The Old Days

Environment Action - The Old Days

For most of my career, I worked on environmental issues. I made sure my employers didn't run afoul of regulations, and identified new environmental risks. This is how I started to work on climate change. I’d identified it as a risk that threatened the survival of my employer. I was just doing my job, looking out for the interests of the company. But there was a snag.

In those days, organizations ran environment departments because they didn't have a choice. They spent as little as possible on these groups and there wasn’t much chance of success in the organization, as an environment person. So, folks cycled in and out of these jobs, except for a few true believers.

Finally - Taking Action on Climate Change

Eventually, I found myself managing climate change because one CEO agreed with me. No, he wasn’t an environment champion. He was a practical, pragmatic businessman who saw a major strategic threat to the company.

But then the Board replaced him with a fellow who didn’t believe in climate change. The new guy felt any money spent on climate was wasted. He surrounded himself with folks that agreed.

Climate action withered, programs and staff were cut, and things returned to business as usual for the environment team. For the first time, I heard the phrase:

That isn’t core business!

This was always the reason given to me for denying funds for climate action.

This sounds like whining and whinging, but truly, it isn’t. I had been an environment guy for a couple of decades by that point. I just saw it as an unfortunate return to the status quo.

The Need for Urgent Action

As a business owner, I understand the urgency of dealing with day-to-day threats. If we ignore these things, our businesses won’t survive to see tomorrow. But when our thinking stops there, we have a real problem.

While we focus on day-to-day problems, new threats continue to spring up. They hit us one after the other. 

We struggle to work our way out of crisis mode, and often we fail. We use precious resources to keep our boat afloat, while ignoring where the river is taking that boat. Eventually, the boat runs aground. Then, we blame the failure on the last crisis that hit us, the last straw.

For most of my career, I worked on environmental issues. I made sure my employers didn't run afoul of regulations and identified new environmental risks. This is how I started to work on climate change. I’d identified it as a risk that threatened the survival of my employer. I was just doing my job, looking out for the interests of the company. But there was a snag.

The Need for Urgent Action

Climate Action is Still Important in 2020

While we deal with the urgent financial and heath crises of 2020, we still have to monitor what’s coming next. In fact, the experts warned us of a possible pandemic and instead, we chose to focus on business as usual. We weren’t prepared. In retrospect, a pandemic was bound to happen, but poor planning made things worse.

Climate change continues to threaten us too. We see more frequent and more severe storms hit communities already reeling from COVID. Climate change just makes a bad situation worse.

Make Climate Action a Priority

Folks don't make climate a priority until an event actually hits. But with planning, we can be better prepared and take the edge off these disasters. Preparation ensures survival. It’s basic continuity planning. Climate change is a strategic risk. We need to plan for it.

Survival is core business if we are to ensure we don’t run aground when the next crisis comes along.

We will get through 2020. But let’s plan. Let’s make climate action core business!

Let's Chat

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the current unrest. Please comment below.

I have devoted several videos to the crises we have confronted in 2020. If you would like to hear more, check out our first offering on Crisis, Response and Recovery.

If you wish feel free to contact us directly.


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