New Business Strategy: Climate Adaptation
Caitlan Vultaggio, Community Resilience Fellow, discusses the consequences of the business community's opposition to climate action and how ClimateWork Maine is working to spread awareness and support to companies interested in changing that narrative.
Coming of age in the latter half of the 2010s, talk about climate change was unavoidable. It was in the news, on social media, and discussed in classes. Over time, it seeped into and pervaded all aspects of life as some looming existential threat underlying all major discussions. With every new IPCC report, the situation is found to be more dire than the previous and we seem to be heading toward the worst of scientists’ estimates. As a business major in college, I was disheartened to learn that the business community has a history of opposing any action. While scientists have been warning us about climate change for decades, profit-motivated corporations dismissed or rejected the warning and have even lobbied the government to prevent environmental policies. As a result, the world continues to miss every target set by international accords and we are experiencing the environmental and social consequences.
Due to this history of inaction, businesses are now facing the consequences of climate change. There has been a rise in Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) planning, where companies reflect on how their business affects the world, but companies are now forced to ask “How does climate affect our company and supply chains?” Climate change poses many risks to both new and established businesses. The most popular and easily observed is physical risk. Some examples are heat waves, sea level rise, frequent and more severe storms that can affect labor, infrastructure and physical assets of the supply chain. There are also liability risks where certain companies might be blamed for disproportionately affecting climate change, and reputational risks — as people want companies to take climate change more seriously, high polluters will be scrutinized by the public and affect their reputation. All these risks affect the cash flows of a company, so businesses are becoming more inclined to protect their assets and mitigate climate related risks throughout their business practices.
One organization working to spread awareness about the consequences of climate change to businesses is ClimateWork Maine. ClimateWork Maine is a recently formed, non-profit organization that grew out of conversations about the defining issue of our time and who needs to be at the table to create plans and strategies to fix it. I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Marks, Executive Director at ClimateWork Maine, to learn about how Maine companies, both large and small, can take a more active role in sustainability efforts. ClimateWork Maine is a growing network of businesses who are taking action on climate change or companies who want to take more action.
The organization is focused on building a business climate movement to create a coordinated and unified network of businesses, for businesses, to carry the message on the economic, environmental, and equity benefits of having climate solutions. In the future, ClimateWork Maine plans to provide companies with immediate and tangible actions they can take to reduce carbon in buildings, vehicles, supply chains and incorporate into purchasing decisions. They also intend to provide companies with information and technical resources to measure their climate emissions and connect them to resources to develop an emissions scorecard. In addition, the organization plans to connect companies to financing and investments to access money for sustainable equipment and technology like heat pumps or electric vehicles.
Jeff mentioned that he has been reaching out to companies to understand their priorities and current climate action plans, but it is usually larger companies, like Hannaford’s and L.L. Bean, who have enough time and resources to create climate action plans. But there are thousands of small businesses in Maine who don’t have much time to think about climate change and that's who the organization is trying to target and support. If you are a company who wants to get involved, please reach out to Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not a business, you can still volunteer to be on the Board of Directors or participate in outreach, fundraising, and other duties by signing up on the ClimateWork Maine website. ClimateWork Maine is also hosting an event on May 19th, 2023 about how climate change will affect Maine’s economy, how businesses can adapt, and the opportunities for new products and services. Learn more and register here.
Businesses provide the organizational structure to make big ideas into realities. Historically, business has changed the world. Look at all the innovation that business drives. It's because of that ability and the power held by business leaders who are poised to take charge and be the leaders of the climate movement. Organizations like ClimateWork Maine are working to channel that power to change the future; because businesses are the ones that can provide the structures needed to become a green economy, to starve off existential annihilation, to push the hand of the Doomsday Clock back a few minutes. And it’s not just that they can tackle this crisis, but turn it into a viable economic system that generates profit and creates future opportunity.
Caitlan is from Long Island, New York. She received a B.S. from Stony Brook University with a double-major in Business Management and Environmental Studies. During her last year in college, Caitlan applied both her business and environmental knowledge as a Research Assistant to Dr. Sara Hamideh where she analyzed the market for coastal resilience bonds in Charleston, SC. The bonds would serve as proactive mitigation for the adverse effects of climate change and ignited her interest in city planning and community resilience. Caitlan also spent a month in Tanzania, conducting research on water quality and studying the intersections of healthcare, culture, and the environment in a developing country. As a Resilience Corps Fellow, Caitlan is excited to embrace community-led approaches to environmental issues and to gain the perspectives and skills needed to promote resilient communities and equitable climate action. In her free time, Caitlan enjoys traveling, cooking, exercising, and sitting by the ocean.