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Small Business Thinking on Climate Change

The story of San Francisco’s astronomical property prices, which continue to displace long-term residents and small businesses alike, is now both national and global news. It seems that not a week or even day goes by without another well-loved business shuttering its doors unable to keep up with sky-rocketing rental rates. Increasingly, small businesses’ woes are being compounded by yet another issue beyond their control – the California drought.

A report this week in the San Francisco Chronicle told of the struggles of the Gleneagles public golf course located in the tough Visitacion Valley neighborhood of the city. Despite its name (it bears little resemblance to its Scottish namesake) it is a favorite among locals for being rough and ready and very affordable at just $19 a round. But after being able to balance the books for the 9 years the current operator has had the lease, he is now faced with what could be an insurmountable challenge – an estimated 50% increase in water rates as a result of the ongoing drought. At time of writing, a deal is still trying to be worked out, but it’s a worrying example of the very real impact the drought is having.

Of course, it’s not just California small businesses – and indeed, businesses in general – that have to deal with the fallout of extreme weather, be it from rising utilities prices or actually physically cleaning up after a severe storm has hit. I was very interested, therefore, to read Zach Bernstein’s excellent round-up of the latest research findings from the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) on SMB’s views on climate change and policy reform. As he states, the common narrative is that small businesses, as the ‘backbone of America,’ which oppose any kind of control on, say, power plant emissions are effectively “job-killers that will drive small business into the ground.” However, the sentiments of responses from this study are very different indeed.

The ASBC report is a quick and easy read, which I’d encourage you to take a look at, but to pull out some key highlights:

  • 87% of business owners named one or more consequences of climate change as potentially harmful to their businesses
  • 53% said they were concerned about higher energy costs – as with the operator of the Gleneagles golf course, it’s the future outlook for day-to-day expenses that are beginning to cause concern
  • 64% of businesses believe government regulation is needed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants (Interestingly, when the data is broken down by political allegiance, there is much greater agreement than one might expect, with 55% of Republicans agreeing to this statement, and 81% of Democrats.)
  • 53% of companies think extreme weather has, or will have, a negative impact on their businesses, with one in five saying their business has already been hurt

As I have said before, whatever your views on the causes of climate change, as SMBs we now must start to build provisions into our future strategies to mitigate the potential impacts as much as we can. ISO certification (my old friend!) includes a very useful element on disaster recovery as well as developing the road map for a sustainable business. Even without certification, there are many steps we can all make to help future proof our business and the environment.

As ever, if you’d like more information or want to discuss your business’s sustainability objectives, please get in touch. Until next time!



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