Understanding the adaptive capacity of Australian small-to-medium enterprises to climate change and variability

Submitted by Pierre Mukheibir 22nd May 2013 4:49

The results of a year-long research study examining the underlying factors and processes shaping the adaptive capacity of Australian Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to climate change and associated sea level rise have just been published.

Climate change may result in adverse business outcomes for SMEs which comprise 96 per cent of all private businesses in Australia; are the economy’s largest employer and the largest contributor to GDP.  Moreover, SMEs play a significant role within socio-economic systems: they provide employment, goods and services and tax revenue for communities.

The central conclusion of this ISF research funded by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility is that underlying contextual processes are critical to enhancing the adaptive capacity of SMEs. These processes include:  relationships between SMEs and support organisations; relationships within support organisations; the capacity of SMEs to use their resources to build resilience into business continuity; SMEs’ perceptions of climate risks; and power struggles between support organisations.

The study further revealed that unfavourable combinations of these processes had the potential to limit the choices available to SMEs for responding to climate change and related threats. These processes which impact on SMEs operated largely at levels external to individual SMEs. They involved all three tiers of government and the relationships between various organisations whose role it is to support SMEs. Such contextual processes had been largely overlooked in formal programmes that aim to build business resilience.

These programmes have tended to be reactive and to focus on business recovery during and after disasters rather than on altering the vulnerability context of SMEs through anticipatory prevention and preparedness.

The research was recently acknowledged internationally and lead investigator Dr Natasha Kuruppu, was invited by APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) to present the research findings to member countries at their second closed door expert group meeting on ‘SME disaster resilience’ in Manlla, Philippines. 

The final report and a set of case studies: “Understanding the adaptive capacity of Australian small-to-medium enterprises to climate change and variability” can be downloaded from both the NCCARF website and the ISF website.

Suggested citation

Kuruppu N, Murta J, P Mukheibir P, Chong J, Brennan, T, 2013 Understanding the adaptive capacity of Australian small-to-medium enterprises to climate change and variability, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, pp. 177.