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Recommendation 1: Understand and identify rightsholders and communities most affected by the climate crisis.

Physical climate impacts, as well as climate solutions designed and deployed without input from relevant rightsholders, exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities of certain communities, resulting in disproportionate impacts to those populations. In order to build effective resilience strategies that take into account both climate resilience and human rights, businesses must understand how these vulnerabilities manifest across their value chains. This can be done by assessing the human rights impacts of climate change as part of existing risk assessment processes or through targeted human rights impact assessments or climate risk assessments.

Recommendation 2: Engage individuals and populations most affected by the climate crisis.

While identifying the communities most affected by the climate crisis is the first step, engaging these communities in the identification, development, and implementation of solutions to build resilience to climate impacts is crucial. Affected communities need to be at the center of the conversations and solutions to both physical and transition impacts.

Recommendation 3: Manage supply chain risk from the top down and bottom up to enable resilient suppliers.

To ensure that the intersection of climate change and human rights is addressed thoroughly across the value chain, risks must be managed both at the top and bottom of the supply chain. At the top, solutions must involve Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) systems and secure buy-in from C-suite leadership and decision-makers in regional/local offices. Simultaneously, at the bottom of the value chain, perhaps at the farm or factory level, resilience programs and risk assessments must be deployed in a way that can reach those most affected on the ground.

If a supplier is identified to be “vulnerable to climate shocks” in a supply chain risk assessment, there are many ways a company can help them build resilience. To prevent shocks that negatively impact sourcing networks—including workers and communities—companies can adopt a “reverse sourcing” approach, one that starts by implementing climate resilience programs at the entities in the value chain most vulnerable to climate shocks first. This may involve working with smallholder producers, upstream producers, or manufacturers to build out resilience programs rather than the traditional approach of engaging Tier 1 suppliers first and waiting for the program to trickle down from the top of the supply chain to those at the bottom.

Recommendation 4: Build awareness of climate and human rights impacts and advocate for action at all levels.

While momentum is gaining, the intersection of climate change and human rights is still a nascent concept for business, and even for many individuals within the human rights and climate change fields. As advocates continue to integrate this concept into their approaches, companies can help build awareness by hosting events, developing thought leadership, or simply providing a convening space for others to share their voice, particularly those most affected by climate change.

Equally, governments must consider the intersection of climate change and human rights, including how to retrofit existing legislation to address emerging issues at this intersection and create new regulations. Companies can call on all levels of government to integrate a human rights and equity lens into their climate solutions, and vice versa. The climate action plans developed by the cities of Portland and Oakland in the US are great examples of how to integrate racial equity into governments’ climate plans.

Recommendation 5: Collaborate internally and externally.

The climate crisis is too big for individual actors to tackle alone; stakeholders must act together to address the human rights impacts of climate change. This requires internal coordination between teams as well as external collaboration across industries, government, and civil society.

Internally, teams spearheading the consideration of climate and human rights can host workshops and trainings to bring people together and explore synergies between departments. Externally, collaboration may involve making commitments through the Business Pledge for Just Transition and Decent Green Jobs, an initiative to support a just transition by ensuring the creation of decent jobs, or establishing partnerships with experts and civil society organizations to create holistic strategies that tackle the human rights impacts of climate change.

Partnerships are key when building resilience to shocks. Many of the essential resilience-building activities will only be possible when companies, governments, and civil society come together. For example, a company can reinforce flood barriers around its own infrastructure, but a partnership with local government can further extend the resilience-building into the local community infrastructure, helping to ensure that workers can get to work and that their communities are protected, ultimately safeguarding both the business and the community.

Recommendation 6: Conduct and disclose risk assessments at the intersection of human rights and climate.

Many companies already conduct human rights due diligence and undertake human rights impact assessments (HRIAs) to identify risks across the business. Companies also carry out risk assessments on the business’s exposure to climate-related risks in accordance with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) requirements.

To better understand and address risks at the intersection of climate and human rights, companies can begin assessing the human rights impacts of climate change as part of existing risk assessment processes or through targeted risk assessments that evaluate specific aspects of the value chain (e.g., certain commodities or geographies). Integrating these considerations into existing processes can serve as a low-lift, first step to identifying risks at this intersection and build internal understanding on the relevance of climate and human rights across teams.

These assessments should include consultation with affected stakeholders and communities. Given that climate and human rights impacts look different across the globe, it is crucial to include perspectives that provide insight into physical impacts and the socioeconomic factors at play throughout the assessment. As an example, applying a gender-focused lens could include working with female workers at factories or farms in high-risk geographies to identify current gender-related barriers that may hinder factory and/or community resilience to climate and human rights impacts. Findings can then be used to create effective, more robust company resilience strategies.

As companies continue to conduct climate risk assessments, they can include human rights risks of climate impacts as part of their report to the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. Companies can also opt to disclose climate change-related human rights risks within their human rights or sustainability reports or by sharing full or abridged results of their human rights due diligence efforts, including relevant HRIAs.

Recommendation 7: Use foresight methodologies to plan for the long term and increase strategic resilience.

While human rights risk assessments can identify current vulnerabilities or crisis hotspots, they do not thoroughly examine the uncertainties of the future and the long-term impacts that may come with it. To understand how a business and its stakeholders may be affected, companies should develop an understanding of a myriad of potential future scenarios, influenced by climate change, human rights, and other social, economic, and political dimensions. Companies can test the resilience of their strategies or approaches against these scenarios and ensure that they are appropriately addressing the climate and human rights impacts that may arise.

Beyond supporting the creation of resilient strategies, the process of developing scenarios creates an opportunity to bring together decision-makers addressing climate and human rights risks throughout the company, providing the added benefit of promoting cross-department collaboration.

The Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, published in 2017, explicitly call for the use of scenario analysis to assess the potential business implications of climate-related risks and opportunities, and it is increasingly becoming a standard practice. However, the use of scenarios for the consideration of human rights is not yet mainstream, nor is it referenced in key frameworks, such as the UNGPs.

Recommendation 8: Learn how to gather data and measure resilience for business and other important communities.

Measuring resilience in relation to both climate and human rights is not as straightforward as quantifiable evaluations of emissions reductions, but it is just as important. Identifying common metrics to measure the impacts and outcomes of climate resilience programs and activities on both business and society is helpful to driving action and obtaining buy-in for work at this intersection.

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