This article is featured in the 2024 FCLTGlobal Blue Book, a collection of real-world examples of how our members are putting long-term strategies into practice today. We hope that these practical illustrations will inspire others to embrace the mission of focusing capital on the long term. Learn more >>

We are entering a new era of a permanently altered climate. Adapting to extreme weather conditions globally –  while striving to mitigate the damage – is a long-term challenge par excellence. And for this task we are vastly unprepared. Our all too human tendency to prioritize today’s concerns over tomorrow’s needs has led us here, and it will take a collective shift in priorities to preserve a livable future for all.  

Business, for our part, needs to do more. In PwC’s 2023 Global CEO Survey, over half of CEOs acknowledged that their companies will be exposed to climate change risks within the next five years. However, only 17 percent reported taking proactive measures to safeguard their workforce and physical assets from the effects of climate change. That’s a dangerously low number, considering companies are already seeing their operations being affected by extreme weather throughout the world (the US alone is now hit by a billion dollar weather disaster every other week on average1) and we are expected to breach the red line of 1.5 °C of global warming within this decade.2  

So what will enable business leaders to proactively adapt to a rapidly changing climate that will affect their companies for decades to come? PwC has prioritized long-term thinking about climate change risk deep into our strategy as a network, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way might help others think about how to bolster their own resilience.  

Use data to make long-term risks relevant now. 

The effects of climate change can seem distant, even abstract. We know climate change is real, but sometimes we’re not entirely sure how it will affect us and when. This can make it tempting to delay action on a threat that feels remote.  

When we took the time to clearly understand how climate change might affect us at PwC, the risks became tangible, immediate, and personal. Our climate risk teams can predict how extreme shifts in weather and a changing climate will affect the earth’s land surface. Even in our own work environments, our teams showed us how much our offices are likely to be exposed to climate hazards such as drought, extreme heat, and extreme precipitation or flooding.  

When we can see that certain PwC offices from Tokyo to Tampa may face up to 200 days a year of potentially deadly temperatures, climate change feels very real, very quickly. This stark picture of our risks helped to galvanize action and, more importantly, give our people the granular information they need to take steps to adapt. Having clear data on our own risks helped to dispel misunderstandings that climate change’s effects will happen only in the distant future, elsewhere, and to other types of businesses. We made public highlights of our climate risks, in part to encourage other companies to examine theirs.  

Use data to define clear next steps and create the teams and processes to deploy them. 

A detailed analysis of our climate risks enabled us to identify key issues for our business and potential responses. It wasn’t easy – it took great effort to translate technical climate data into pragmatic business risk assessments, and then educate and mobilize a network of leaders in every territory to act on them. 

We built climate resilience into the core of our enterprise strategy, establishing a leadership structure to oversee the process within our own operations. We appointed Climate Risk Leaders from across our network to implement their own local climate risk analyses and work across multiple functions to put adaptation measures in place. We looked afresh at our security and business continuity functions, globally and locally, to anticipate climate hazards. Climate resilience is very much a part of our network risk management framework, and climate-related risk is considered within the enterprise risk management processes of all our PwC firms. 

Demonstrate that climate adaptation is not a distraction from building business value. 

Rather, it is central to value creation and preservation. Our climate risk analysis helped us quantify the benefits of action and the costs of inaction. The analysis helped us build a business case for steps like securing our supply chains and adopting climate resilient infrastructure. This brought to light opportunities too: to innovate, to operate more efficiently and sustainably, and to help the communities in which we operate to adapt. After all, climate change doesn’t affect just PwC offices; it affects our clients, our people, and our communities in the region. Uncovering our climate risks helped us think holistically about how to help the wider communities of which we are a part.  

Revealing PwC’s own climate risks made a global issue personal, helping us see the urgency and value of building resilience and helping us make decisions today to help secure the long-term future of our network and our communities. Business leaders must understand their own climate risks and the steps they can take right now to adapt 

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