Ignoring Invasive Species Will Undermine Climate Risk Strategies

Businesses are facing increasing pressure to understand and mitigate their climate risks. But while carbon management and supply chain concerns climb up corporate agendas, biodiversity and nature-related risks are often left behind. Invasive species may not be the most obvious issue to raise in the boardroom, yet ignoring them may have disastrous results. The spread of non-native wildlife can both exacerbate physical climate risks and cause economic and reputational damage.

When modelling climate risks, firms must be aware of the impact invasive species can have on the physical environments in which they operate. Non-native vegetation, for example, can increase susceptibility to fire – while trees such as acacia and eucalyptus can exacerbate drought in water scarce areas by consuming large amounts of water. Planning for physical climate events without considering the impact of invasive species could leave organizations vastly unprepared for future risks.

Even industries that do not directly depend on natural resources must be mindful of how invasive species can affect their physical climate risks and net zero plans. Organizations will face major reputational risks if they contribute to the spread of invasive species – whether this is directly through business operations or due to carbon offset projects. Business leaders must ensure that their standard practices are designed to protect native species and account for the risk of invasives, or may find that their climate-related goals have been undermined.

The picture isn’t all negative. Firms prepared to take a proactive approach on invasive species have the opportunity to simultaneously address nature and climate risks. There is room for innovation in protecting biodiversity, and pioneers will gain a competitive advantage. With such a complex and overlapping relationship between invasive species and climate change, it’s clear that nature and climate risks cannot be managed in isolation – especially as mandated disclosures for both continue to increase.

Emma Cutler

Emma is a Senior Analyst in the Verdantix Net Zero & Climate Risk research practice. Her current research agenda focuses on climate risk and resilience. She has a background in simulation and statistical modelling applied to climate adaptation, coastal management, and international development. She holds a PhD in systems engineering from Dartmouth College and a BA from Bowdoin College.