Companies Are Combining Resilience and Sustainability

Resilience and Sustainability
September 15, 2020

Want to gauge a corporation’s climate change response?

Look at their resiliency and sustainability plans.

Once thought of as two distinct entities, companies are finding that resilience and sustainability could be a beneficial symbiotic relationship.

In a Simplicable 2016 post entitled “Sustainability vs. Resilience,” sustainability was defined as “the practice of reducing or eliminating environmental impact and improving quality of life for communities.”

The author John Spacey defined resilience as “…the practice of designing things to endure physical, social and economic shocks and stresses.”

An overall climate practice vs. a plan for a one-time disaster.

Fast forward to 2020.

Rather than remaining distinct, resilience is finding a home in sustainability plans in this greener economy.

Such is one of the findings of a recent GreenBiz report “How corporations are managing risk, resiliency and sustainability.”

A consumer products executive interviewed for the GreenBiz report, stated: “As an enterprise, risk and sustainability are probably still thought of in two separate buckets…I think that we’re starting to get to a place where they’re intersecting.”

The survey showed that respondents were almost equally split concerning how well their senior leadership incorporates climate-related factors and resilience-related risks into its overall business strategy.

“Specifically, 49 percent either agree or strongly agree that their senior leadership weighs these factors, whereas 48 percent either disagree or strongly disagree.”

GreenBiz executives caution, however, that “Sustainability and risk management executives should not ignore the need for resiliency plans or climate-related risk management, even if senior leadership lacks enthusiasm for the effort.”

Why?

Because rules on how to do business are changing. And not only are these factors important for internal business practices, but they are of interest to investors, stakeholders, customers, NGOs, and supply chain partners. Many, if not all, of these entities are starting to require more of this type of data.

From the March 2019 HydroPoint blog post “Resilience is the New Sustainability,” the writer makes a strong argument why resilience should be included in sustainability plans. He writes: “Resilience aids conservation because it allows the maximum amount of options at any given point in time…To protect the environment, organizations must focus on both sides of this issue and link together sustainability and resilience” for the best possible outcome.

The post cites the California drought from 2011 to 2017 as an illustration. Despite the devastation of the drought, local authorities are discussing resilience, instead of sustainability, to address future needs.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) conducted research to see just how resilience can fit into the state’s future plan.

For example, in urban areas, the state is looking to implement five actions to improve resiliency: 1) coordinate water shortage planning, 2) foster water system flexibility, 3) improve water suppliers’ fiscal resilience, 4) address water shortages in vulnerable communities and ecosystems, and 5) balance long-term water use efficiency and drought resilience.

By addressing this issue in city planning stages, the state is acknowledging that drought is more than a one-time occurrence, and it is necessary to address the resiliency of the water system in order to sustain its water supply.

Businesses would do well to apply this same practice.

Adverse weather conditions are more than a “one-time occurrence” with climate change.

By fusing resilience into sustainability, companies can build a stronger overall risk management program that will make customers, investors, the supply chain, and the community feel good about the future.

Author

Laurie Toupin