A report published by The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) highlights the actual and potential impact for UK food businesses failing to adapt to extreme weather and climate change.
The report, researched and written by Social Change UK, a change agency based in the Midlands, provides evidence of the current attitudes, beliefs and behaviours to climate change adaptation in over 40 small, medium and large food and drink businesses in the UK including Tesco, Aldi, Warburtons, United Biscuits, Weetabix and Greggs.
Despite evidence in recent years of volatile weather events, a large number of food businesses did not believe there was any significant and immediate problem facing them with many businesses choosing to ‘wait and see’ when it comes to climate change rather than plan and adapt now, according to Defra.
Some of the key findings from the research include:
- Drivers: Competitors and customers are driving businesses to adapt to climate change. Businesses supplying to the major supermarkets are being ‘forced’ to consider and move to climate change activities to secure contracts. Businesses not supplying the major supermarkets are being left behind.
- A ‘pay later' approach: Businesses tend to be reactionary instead of being proactive when it comes to managing climate risk.
- Impact: Some businesses have been hit hard by recent weather events and have paid a significant financial price to get back to ‘business as usual’.
- Sea level rise (and its effects): Businesses believe this is a low risk and something that will happen a long time into the future and affect only businesses near to the coast.
- Commitment: Commitment to climate change is secured only when there are commercial and financial benefits attached.
- Water: The cost of metered water was the main reason for businesses engaging in water saving activities.
- Product availability: Very few companies were concerned about the future availability of raw products and felt that the issue affecting them short and long term was more cost rather than availability.
- Diversification: Farmers and growers have stopped growing some crops because it is too risky. Many are diversifying in response to extreme weather with some ‘giving up’ on growing certain types of crops altogether. This could lead to a number of products not being grown in the UK in the long term.
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