Global warming and climate change are global environmental concerns that have significant consequences for corporate employees. The significant shift of major corporations and public companies to address climate change as part of their business strategy has been an attempt to manage both human and natural resources. From health risks to productivity loss, understanding the impact of climate change on the workforce is crucial for businesses and organisations while simultaneously working on reducing their own carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. In this blog post, we will delve into eight points with compelling facts and figures that shed light on how the effects of climate change have impacted corporate employees around the world.
1. Heat-Related Illnesses
Since 1981, the earth’s temperature has been rising at an average rate of 0.08°C every ten years, and has shot up exponentially to 0.18°C which can be attributed to global warming. In 2019, there were 356,000 deaths attributed to heat-related illnesses. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 1.1 billion people are currently at risk of heat-related illnesses due to climate change. Heatwaves and rising temperatures can lead to physical risks such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, particularly among employees working in outdoor or poorly ventilated environments.
2. Increased Absenteeism
Studies have shown that extreme weather events associated with climate change can lead to increased absenteeism among employees. For example, research conducted in the United States found that hurricanes resulted in an average of 0.11 additional days of absenteeism per affected employee. Unpredictable weather patterns that cause natural disasters, such as flooding, impose physical risks to employee mobility.
3. Decline in Labor Productivity
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects a decline in labor productivity as a result of climate change impacts. Studies show productivity decline of approximately 1% for every degree of temperature rise above 25°C. As well as productivity decline, heat also impairs cognitive performance.
4. Mental Health Challenges
Extreme weather events and climate-related disasters can have a significant impact on the mental health of corporate employees. The American Psychological Association reports that exposure to climate-related disasters increases the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders among affected individuals. In a study from Adelaide Australia, hospital admissions for mental health conditions were seen to increase by 7.3% during heat waves.
5. Impact on Supply Chains
Climate change-related disruptions can significantly affect global supply chains, impacting corporate employees who rely on these systems. According to a report by CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), extreme weather events and natural disasters can disrupt transportation, production, and distribution networks, causing delays and financial losses.
6. Increased Occupational Health Risks
The changing climate exposes corporate employees to new occupational health risks. For instance, workers involved in outdoor activities or industries such as agriculture, construction, and transportation face increased risks of heat stress, respiratory illnesses due to poor air quality, and injuries from extreme weather events.
7. Economic Consequences
The economic impact of the climate crisis extends to corporate employees and business leaders. It is estimated that since 1990, heatwaves have cost the global economy about US$16 trillion. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2030, climate change-related factors could result in productivity losses of over US$2 trillion globally. This can lead to job insecurity, reduced wages, and potential layoffs, impacting the financial well-being of employees.
8. Recruitment and Retention Challenges
Corporate sustainability and environmental responsibility have become critical factors in attracting and retaining talent. A study by Cone Communications found that 76% of millennials consider a company's social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Failure to address climate change concerns may hinder recruitment efforts and employee retention.
Enter Workforce Resilience
Building workforce resilience is essential for organisations to adapt to climate change impacts. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) emphasises the need for employers to develop resilience strategies that protect the physical and mental well-being of employees, enhance workplace safety, and ensure business continuity.
Addressing climate change's impact on corporate employees requires collaboration between businesses, governments, and communities. Initiatives such as developing climate-resilient infrastructure, implementing flexible work arrangements, and promoting sustainable practices can help mitigate risks and safeguard employee health and productivity.
The facts and figures presented highlight the significant impact of climate change on corporate employees. From health risks and productivity loss to economic consequences, businesses must recognise and address these challenges that affect a company's reputation. By prioritising employee wellbeing, implementing resilience strategies, and adopting sustainable practices, organisations can create a healthier, more resilient workforce capable of thriving in a changing climate.