National Climate Resilience Framework – Key Takeaways for Corporate Sustainability Leaders

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Leaders in corporate sustainability now have an additional resource at their disposal to enhance and refine their climate resilience efforts. Since the beginning of their tenure, the Biden-Harris administration has rolled out a vast array of initiatives focused on climate change mitigation. In September, the administration redirected its focus to climate resilience with the unveiling of the National Climate Resilience Framework (NCRF). This initiative emphasizes essential values, priorities, and objectives to amplify and expedite both national and local resilience strategies. The NCRF is the nation’s first holistic climate adaptation and resilience roadmap to be used across the Federal government and in coordination with non-Federal partners. The framework includes objectives and actions to strengthen the resiliency of the most critical physical and social systems including infrastructure, housing, water resources, public health and worker protections. The NCRF defines resilience as “the ability to prepare for threats and hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from adverse conditions and disruptions”.

Corporate sustainability leaders can leverage the NCRF as a guide to align their initiatives with broader national strategies for climate resilience. The NCRF identifies six core objectives to strengthen the nation’s protections against climate change impacts, emphasizing the importance of an all-hands-on-deck approach. The theme of environmental or climate justice within the framework underscores the importance of including and safeguarding marginalized communities. The six objectives are provided below and include recommendations for corporate sustainability leaders.

  1. Embed Climate Resilience into Planning and Management
    1. Evaluate how climate considerations can be integrated into corporate planning and management processes. Climate change can impact almost all aspects of a business. Corporations are already identifying, assessing and managing climate related risks and opportunities through frameworks such as the Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
    2. Conduct climate risk assessments, develop action plans, and align them with other corporate planning documents and budgets. Investors are keen to understand the level of climate related risk companies are exposed to and the actions that they are taking to build resilience across their operations including supply chains.
  2. Increase Resilience of the Built Environment to Both Acute Climate Shocks and Chronic Stressors
    1. Consider how corporate construction plans and infrastructure projects can incorporate resilience measures.  When undertaking facility repairs or embarking on new construction projects, it is crucial to incorporate plans for extreme weather events and potential power disruptions. Corporations have been increasingly installing onsite renewable energy with battery storage and emergency generators to ensure business continuity.
    2. Explore partnerships with government programs, like FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Program. FEMA has published the fiscal year 2023 funding opportunities for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities and the Flood Mitigation Assistance grant programs, totaling $1.8 billion.

3. Mobilize Capital, Investment, and Innovation to Advance Climate Resilience at Scale

  1. Explore opportunities for corporate investments in climate-resilient technologies. Only a small fraction of all climate investments is focused on adaptation. Low cost and effective solutions include early detection and warning systems for extreme weather events, coastal barriers, water desalination and wastewater treatment, vertical farming and hydroponic agriculture, improved cooling and insulation systems, 3D printed and modular housing.
  2. Engage in innovation that aligns with federal initiatives like the National Clean Investment Fund and Solar and Wind Grid Services program. The EPA released the $14 billion National Clean Investment Fund Notice of Funding Opportunity. The competition for the National Clean Investment Fund aims to award grants to 2–3 national nonprofit organizations specializing in clean financing. These organizations should be prepared to collaborate with the private sector, offering accessible and affordable financing for tens of thousands of clean technology projects throughout the country.

4. Equip Communities with Information and Resources Needed to Assess their Climate Risks and Develop the Climate Resilience Solutions Most Appropriate for Them.

  1. Engage with communities to provide evidence-based, user-friendly information on climate risks. Corporations are already engaging with communities to help support local charities or holding events like Earth Day celebrations. Such engagements can include climate resilience solutions.
  2. Support community-driven climate resilience efforts. Corporations can also leverage government information resources such as Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation portal, Sea Level Rise Viewer, and Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to help communities build resilience.

5. Protect and sustainably manage lands and waters to enhance resilience while providingnumerous other benefits

  1. Explore nature-based solutions in corporate initiatives and support local conservation efforts. There is currently a focus on companies to contribute to the protection of biodiversity and to use nature-based solutions.  The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) has issued disclosure recommendations and guidance for organizations to report and act on evolving nature-related dependencies, impacts, risks and opportunities. Corporations can implement the TNFD guidance and recommendations to incorporate nature into decision making to help boost biodiversity.
  2. Incorporate changing climatic conditions into resource management plans. One nature-based solution corporations can employ to build climate resilience is the implementation of green infrastructure. This involves incorporating natural elements such as green roofs, permeable surfaces, and urban forests into their facilities and operations. Green infrastructure helps absorb excess rainwater, mitigates flooding, provides shade, and contributes to overall climate adaptation by enhancing biodiversity and ecosystem services. Incorporating nature-based solutions like these not only improves resilience but also promotes sustainability and environmental well-being.

6. Help Communities Become Not Only More Resilient but Also More Safe, Healthy, Equitable and Economically Strong

  1. Integrate climate resilience strategies with broader corporate social responsibility initiatives. The stakeholder engagement process can be used to help involve communities and related stakeholders to build resilience.
  2. Explore ways to enhance community well-being, equity, and economic robustness.When engaging with local communities, it is of utmost importance to carefully consider and prioritize equity and environmental justice. This entails recognizing and addressing any existing disparities in access to resources, opportunities, and decision-making processes. By fostering inclusive and fair interactions, acknowledging diverse perspectives, and actively working towards mitigating environmental injustices, organizations can contribute to building stronger, more sustainable relationships with the communities they serve.

In conclusion, the Biden-Harris administration has demonstrated national leadership in addressing climate change by establishing a robust foundation and roadmap for strengthening resilience. Aligning corporate sustainability endeavors with the NCRF enables sustainability leaders to play a pivotal role in fortifying the nation’s resilience while promoting collaboration and innovation in response to climate challenges. To effectively contribute, corporations should integrate measurable metrics and targets to assess their impact on climate resilience and monitor progress. Staying abreast of government initiatives in this domain is crucial, and exploring opportunities for corporate engagement in public-private partnerships that align with the NCRF goals can further support collective efforts towards a more resilient future.

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