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How are businesses in the UK driving climate resilience?

For the UK to adapt to the increasing effects of climate change, and do so sustainably, a revolution is needed in how we manage our land and buildings.

There is an increasing recognition that working with nature will be a key part of enabling the country to cope with the 10% rise in annual average rainfall by 2100 (including increased heavy rainfall events)[1]. Nature-based solutions will also help the UK to build resilience to heat waves, extreme weather events, drought and sea level rise.

Adapting to a changing climate is leading an increasing number of organisations to consider how they can better develop, manage and maintain their own land and buildings, and the communities around them. Utility companies, British entrepreneurs, large business owners and property developers make up 36% of the top 50 landowners in the UK, but they have potential to build resilience over a much wider geographic area, as climate adheres to no land boundaries. By working in partnership, land-owners can drive positive climate resilience, often with a financial return or a reduction in business risk.

Businesses working together

Business in the Community (BITC) convenes businesses nationwide to tackle society’s biggest issues. Back in 2016 BITC’s Water Taskforce proposed that retrofitting sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) within Greater Manchester could create new, resilient, green and blue spaces and also generate financial savings that could offset the cost of building the SuDS.

United Utilities charges business customers for surface water drainage, on the basis of the surface area of their site that drains into the wastewater system. By using SuDs to disconnect areas of a site from the wastewater system it is possible for business customers to move down a charging band and make annual financial savings. Initial work on this model (featured in the Water Resilient Cities report) by Arup, Stantec and Marshalls has been incorporated into the IGNITION project.

Businesses across the UK have been engaging in similar joint ventures to protect and strengthen the environment around them.

For example, United Utilities and Nestlé have been working on co-investment in landscapes in Cumbria to build resilience, reduce flood risk, improve farming practices, ensure long-term supply chain sustainability and reduce flood risk. The LENs (Landscape Enterprise Networks) approach can impact on business operations and benefit communities at risk. LENs helps businesses understand their reliance on the natural environment and encourage a commercial interest in how landscapes function. This, in turn, encourages investment and innovation in vital natural assets like water, soil and tree cover, which not only benefits business but society and the environment. This approach is being adopted in increasing areas across the UK, with active support from Nestlé and the Water Taskforce.

The Environment Agency is taking action with BITC, working in East Anglia to find the best way to use data about our environment to help farmers and retailers understand their roles in water stewardship so they can make decisions that protect our water quality and water resources.

Since 2005, United Utilities has planted nearly 800,000 trees helping deliver water, carbon and air quality benefits and reduce flood risk. In Manchester, they were a key sponsor for the world’s biggest tree survey outside the US to quantify the value of trees and are working with partners to plant ‘street’ trees to realise this value.

Aviva sponsored the creation of the Would Your Business Premises Be Ready For a Flood? factsheet, aimed at summarising what the Property Flood Resilience Code of Practice means for small businesses at flood risk and containing easy to implement suggestions to help them prepare for flooding.

These are just a few partnerships working to protect communities from our changing climate through a holistic and partnership-driven approach. IGNITION is a key player in creating the enabling environment for more of these investments to be made into our future.

Find out more about the work that the IGNITION project is doing across GM.


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