It’s time for action

By Mark Nicholson

November 2019

Climate change threatens warehouse businesses today

This is a climate change article with a difference. It won’t ask you to reduce your carbon footprint. Instead, its aim is to help you protect your warehouse or factory business. Mark Nicholson explains…

Whether or not you believe the scientific evidence that human activities are accelerating it, climate change is a measurable fact. In Europe, winters are becoming wetter and summers drier, while the frequency of extreme weather events like storms, floods, heatwaves and droughts is increasing.

These changes are already affecting businesses, either directly or through their supply chains. Today’s very real – and growing – climate-related threats are summarised here, along with practical advice on how to mitigate and manage them.

If any company in your supply chain has a climate-related problem, it will affect you all.




Floods resulting from heavy rainfall are often made worse by overloaded drainage, overflowing rivers and, in coastal regions, rising sea levels. As well as damaging premises and their contents, flooding can put operations out of action. Even if a site remains open, staff may be unable to reach it due to flood effects on transport. And if flood water destroys essential paperwork, there is potential for administrative problems and lost orders.


  • Research the estimated flood frequency and severity in your current and planned locations.
  • Place your most important and valuable goods and equipment in higher positions.
  • Think about having pumps permanently on-site, so you can react immediately to flooding rather than waiting to be rescued.
  • Deploy temporary or permanentflood barriers around your buildings.
  • Review your drainage to ensure the water landing on your roofs and surrounding land
    is effectively channelled away.
  • Replace impermeable hard ground surfaces with porous alternatives.
  • Develop some areas as natural habitats, which absorb more water.
  • Set up IT solutions, procedures and equipment allowing at least some operations to be managed, monitored or even controlled remotely if personnel are unable to get to work.
  • Move toward electronic rather than paper-based administration.
  • Invest in insurance (flood damage and business continuity) – and try to reduce premiums by taking the preventative actions above.



Power cuts

Floods and storms can also shut you down by damaging local electricity supply systems.
As these incidents become more common, we can expect the cost of repairs to increase electricity prices.


  • Work out whether investing in a diesel-powered back-up generator for emergency use would pay for itself through downtime savings.
  • Be less dependent on the power suppliers by generating at least some of your own electricity from renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
  • Reduce your consumption through improvements such as efficient lighting
    and better insulation.




The death toll from spells of unusually hot weather in Europe, as experienced in 2019, can number tens of thousands in a single summer. These conditions also increase employees’ sickness absence and fatigue, lower their concentration and affect their productivity.


  • Reduce absorption of solar heat by fitting reflective roofs.
  • Insulate walls and doors to keep out heat.
  • Fit window blinds to provide shade.
  • Separate hot machinery from workers using insulated curtain walls or strips.
  • Open doors, windows and vents when the air is cooler outside than inside – and install insect screens if necessary.
  • Consider whether portable industrial fans, dehumidifiers or air conditioners – easily moved to where they are most needed – are more cost-effective than whole-building installed systems.
  • Investigate and compare installation and running costs for air conditioning systems and high-volume low-speed (HLVS) fans.




In drier summers, water demand may exceed supply. This leads to restrictions on water use, as well as higher prices. Everyone needs water, but for some manufacturing and processing companies it is also an essential ingredient of their business.


  • Educate staff to use less water and avoid waste.
  • Capture water from roof drainage, which is clean enough for many purposes.
  • Reuse water from washing for purposes such as flushing toilets.
  • Explore other possibilities for making use of previously discarded water.



Supply chain knock-on effects

If any company in your supply chain has a climate-related problem, it will affect you all.
For example, your premises may not be flooded, but flooding elsewhere may prevent your supplier from reaching you, or stop you from reaching your customer. Supply chains extend globally, and some countries are facing much more extreme climate change impacts than us. As a result, we are likely to see shortages – and increased prices – of some commodities, raw materials and foods, for instance.


  • Ask your supply chain partners what management strategies they have in place for climate-related risks.
  • Look for partners who communicate well and respond quickly to problems.
  • Work together to increase your supply chain’s efficiency and flexibility, using digital data collection, monitoring and management processes.
  • Take out business interruption insurance in case a climate-related blockage anywhere in the chain stops your operation.



Taxation and legislation

Governments are imposing restrictions on carbon emissions, as well as climate change levies on energy used. These measures will intensify as the seriousness of climate change becomes more obvious. To meet regulations, you may need to invest substantially in new equipment and facilities. Other businesses facing these costs will pass them on to you. Differences in regulation between countries will add complexity.


  • Think ahead.
  • Plan a smooth transition to low-carbon operation, instead of being disrupted by sudden changes.



Changing customer attitudes and demands

Customers are less and less likely to do business with companies which appear to act unsustainably. Patterns of product choice will also change with the weather, to meet different clothing needs for example. Effects of climate change on raw material prices may make some products less attractive, while changes in growing conditions may alter the range of foods available.


  • Operate sustainably and make sure customers know you take environmental concerns seriously.
  • Diversify the products you make or handle and be ready to respond quickly to market trends.



Worldwide financial Disruption

Climate change could potentially disrupt the stability of the global financial system. Insurers will have to pay out large sums and charge higher premiums. In high-risk areas, insurance will more difficult to obtain. Investors and banks will have to assess whether companies are managing climate-related risks properly, and finance will be less accessible for some. Disruption of supply chains and markets will add further pressures, affecting the whole business world.


  • Take the mitigation measures suggested above.
  • Develop a plan.



Lack of adaptive strategy

If your business has no plan for climate change, it will suffer.


  • Make sure climate change is covered by your company’s business risk management process.
  • Transform your business model and strategy to work in the coming low-carbon world.
  • Look well ahead and consider whether the assets you invest in today will be right for the situation in, say, 20 or 100 years.
  • Use your asset replacement and development schedule to introduce adaptations to climate change.
  • Work with your relevant trade associations to help your sector adapt together.

A win-win situation

Even if all those scientists are wrong and the climate changes less than they predict, by acting now you will gain all these things and more:

  • Better preparation for today’s floods or power cuts
  • Increased uptime
  • Happier and more productive employees, whatever the weather
  • Reliable water supply
  • Lower electricity and water bills
  • Higher efficiency and flexibility in your business and its supply chain
  • A more attractive image to customers

When you add it all up, preparing for climate change makes great business sense – and you will be a planet-saving hero too. •