How should businesses respond to climate change?

hurricane

In their newest assessment of climate data, U.S. scientists point to a 1.8 °F jump in global average surface air temperature in characterizing the period 1901-2016 as “the warmest in the history of modern civilization.”

According to the special government climate report released in November, the trend toward record-breaking warmth — with the past three years having been the hottest ever — will likely continue. And when it comes to assessing causes, the scientists take a direct approach, describing how human activity that produces greenhouse gases is to blame. But how exactly is our environment changing, and what can enterprises do to address climate challenges, now and in the future?

Imperfect Storms

In line with the scientific community’s recent forecasts, the effects of global warming are becoming increasingly evident worldwide. Sea levels have risen approximately 7 inches over many decades while melting glaciers, reduced snow pack, dwindling sea ice and increased acidification of seawater are widely observed. In dramatic ways, recent hurricanes have also placed an intense spotlight on the environmental consequences of warming air.

After Hurricane Harvey dumped 27 trillion gallons of rain and displaced 30,000 U.S. residents, Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria damaged communities across the Caribbean. Weeks after Hurricane Maria had touched off humanitarian crises in the Leeward Islands and surrounding territories, large numbers of residents of Puerto Rico still lacked access to water service, power and communications networks. As conditions failed to improve, approximately 100,000 Puerto Rican citizens were forced to leave the island chain by mid-November.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it’s likely that greenhouse gases, as they intensify atmospheric heat, help create exceptionally dangerous hurricanes like these that blend higher peak wind intensities with increased precipitation, causing devastating effects.

U.S. Government scientists now tie climate change to increased hurricane activity in the North Atlantic Ocean that dates back to the 1970s.

Industry Impacts

Catastrophic weather events have the power to disrupt businesses, transform regional economies and reconfigure the global marketplace. Where are market impacts the strongest? According to the European Commission, the effects of climate change will be acutely felt by the energy, agriculture and tourism industries along with the building sector. In addition, insurers will continue to face challenges of accurately assessing risks from global warming, calibrating premiums and managing shifting policyholder needs.

In our work as consultants and technologists, the people of DXC are currently helping our clients in the insurance industry — and their customers — cope with extreme weather. Through our Xchanging team, we enable London Market insurers to handle claims, analyze indemnity payment reserves and coordinate loss assessments as customers recover from fragmented operations and unplanned storm expenses.

With our property & casualty solutions, we help U.S. regional insurers, including many in Florida, simplify the claims process for policyholders who may have been displaced from their homes or are still coping with electrical outages. And we provide some insurers with policy underwriting, claims examination and payment issuance services related to the U.S. Government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to ensure that policyholders receive payments and our clients have the analytics insights they need.

Shifting Perspectives

Across industries, how can businesses respond to the changing climate?

  • While most enterprises understand their carbon footprints, which typically cover production and manufacturing processes, what steps need to be taken to analyze “carbon handprints” that involve sales, distribution, and service or product use?
  • Similarly, while enterprises may have excellent insights into greenhouse gas emissions from their own operations, what can they do to better understand and influence the environmental effects of their partners’ and suppliers’ business practices?
  • When it comes to climate action, should companies focus only on internal projects or also seek to make public statements of support for global initiatives such as the Paris Agreement?
  • Finally, what opportunities does climate change offer in some industries and for some businesses to drive innovation, increased profitability and targeted community involvement?

At DXC, we strive to set and meet ambitious carbon reduction targets while aiming for increasingly comprehensive, transparent reporting on sustainable business practices. As the discussion about climate change deepens, we continue to see the importance of engaging with others to help craft solutions to the challenges posed by a warming world.

RELATED LINKS

DXC’s 2017 Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Report

Taking care of the earth, one river at a time

Do busy people have time for the environment?

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