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Understanding industry relative exposure to physical impacts of climate change

Source(s):  Four Twenty Seven (427)

By Natalie Ambrosio Preudhomme

As banks and lenders increasingly aim to assess the climate risks in their portfolios, there is a growing need for an efficient way to screen thousands of companies on their exposure to climate risks. Likewise, as regulators develop new requirements for stress testing and disclosure, they’re looking to phase in requirements and understand what can be reasonably assessed and disclosed in the near term. Traditionally, a company’s sector is used as a basis for understanding its exposure to climate risk when more detailed information is not available. This approach is the foundation for transition risk approximations, as a company’s exposure to risks from the transition to a low-carbon economy is largely driven by its sector. However, a broader range of companies can face risks from physical climate hazards, based primarily on the location of their operations. Physical risks translate into business risks through damage and disruption at business manufacturing plants, data centers and other operating facilities, as well as through their supply chains.


One way to obtain a high-level view of a company’s exposure to physical risk is to understand the trends of risk exposure both in its sector and in the countries in which it operates. We leveraged our database of 5,000 global companies and their underlying 2 million global corporate facilities  scored on their forward-looking exposure to climate hazards to provide a view on relative risk exposure by industry. We use the framework in figure 1 to assess companies’ exposure to climate risk and aggregate the findings up to the sector and country level to provide a high-level view that’s informed by asset-level analysis.

Framework for assessing a company’s exposure to physical climate risk:

  • A company’s Operations Risk is based on its facility-level exposure floods, heat stress, hurricanes & typhoons, sea level rise, water stress and wildfires. The analysis also considers the sensitivity of different types of facilities. For example, manufacturing plants with their high energy demands are more sensitive to extreme heat than offices.
  • Supply Chain Risk is based on the risk in countries that export commodities that the company depends on and a company’s reliance on climate-sensitive resources such as water, land and energy, based on its industry.
  • Market Risk is based on where a company’s sales are generated and how its industry has historically been impacted by weather variability.

Figure 1. Framework for assessing companies’ exposure to physical climate risk.

Scores are normalized, with 0 being the least exposed and 100 being the most exposed. In line with considerations of relevant time horizons and of impacts being locked in over the climatic short term our company risk scores consider projected climate impacts in the 2030-2040 time period under a single RCP scenario, RCP 8.5 (the worst case scenario, also known as business as usual), but leverages several climate models.

Key Findings by Sector

In this analysis we share key findings on companies’ Operations Risk, which is based on their facilities’ exposure to each climate hazard. Understanding relative exposure by sector can inform high-level assessments of market-wide risk based  on the concentrations of certain industries in loan portfolios.

Manufacturing, construction and transportation/storage sectors have the highest Operations Risk scores (Figure 2). This is noteworthy because these are industries with particular vulnerabilities to disruption from extreme events such as floods, as well as vulnerability to chronic stresses like increasing temperatures which affects labor productivity and energy prices. Companies in the manufacturing sector are often part of global supply chains, such that disruptions at plants in one country can lead to shortages around the world. Construction and transportation, on the other hand, are often critical for local economies.

Figure 2. The average Operations Risk for companies within each sector. The size of the box represents the number of facilities assessed within each sector and the color of the box represents its relative risk to physical climate hazards. The number in the box shows the average Operations Risk for companies in that sector.

The next layer of detail provides an understanding of a sector’s relative risk by hazard, based on the average risk scores of companies in that sector. As risks and also relevant corporate resilience measures vary based on hazard, this detail can help inform risk management and engagement efforts.

Figure 3. The average hazard risk score for companies within the manufacturing sector.

Key Findings by Country

Within a sector there are significant differences in average exposure depending on the country, as physical climate risk varies by location. For example, in the construction sector the average Operations Risk scores are highest in the Philippines, Vietnam and Mexico, while the average scores are lowest in Finland, Bulgaria and Switzerland.

Different countries also have different risk exposure based on the hazard. For example, the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico are countries with significant numbers of corporate facilities that also stand out with the highest Operations Risk scores. However, for wildfires, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil stand out as countries with significant numbers of corporate facilities that are among the highest risk (Figure 4). Meanwhile, for water stress Kazakhstan, Morocco and  Australia are among the most exposed (Figure 5)

Figure 4. Facilities owned by transportation and storage companies, colored based on their exposure to wildfires.

Figure 5. Global corporate facilities owned by manufacturing companies, colored based on their exposure to water stress.

This dataset provides a multifaceted view on physical risk exposure by industry and country, which can be tailored to the needs of specific risk assessments and inform views on aggregate portfolio risk.

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  • Publication date 07 Jun 2021

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