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

National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
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Understanding the adaptive capacity of Australian small-to-medium enterprises to climate change and variability, 2013
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Small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) comprise 96 per cent of all private businesses in Australia. The SME sector is the economys 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. Climate change may result in adverse business outcomes including business interruptions, increased investment and insurance costs, and declines in financial indicators such as measures of value, return and growth. After natural disasters, SMEs face greater short-term losses than larger enterprises, and may have lower adaptive capacity for various reasons. This study examines the underlying factors and processes shaping adaptive capacity of Australian SMEs to climate change and associated sea level rise. Specifically, the research asks the following questions: 1) How have SMEs considered and integrated adaptation into business planning? 2) What are the key underlying processes that constrain and influence the adaptive capacities of SMEs? and 3) What types of support are required to promote SME business continuity under a changing climate? The study adopts theories from Political Ecology and draws on literature on vulnerability and hazards to understand the processes that mediate the adaptive capacity of SMEs. The empirical research involved an online survey targeting SMEs, attending business engagement events hosted by chambers of commerce, 30 semi-structured interviews with secondary stakeholders, five case studies involving SMEs and secondary stakeholders, and finally a stakeholder workshop which brought together participants from both groups
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