Understanding the adaptive capacity of Australian small-to-medium enterprises to climate change and variability
Authurs: Natasha Kuruppu, Janina Murta, Pierre Mukheibir, Joanne Chong and Tim Brennan
The key resilient elements to building the adaptive capacity of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to future stresses include: self-organisation capacity, strong social networks, self-efficacy beliefs and social learning from past experiences. Central to all of these is the agency aspect, or ability of SMEs to access opportunities (e.g. funding to develop new marketing strategies) and shape processes (e.g. the rigid criteria in accessing disaster funding) that support business continuity. However, since the adaptive capacity of SMEs is to a large extent shaped in turn by the adaptive capacity of the organisations that support them, the agency of SMEs if often limited. Key factors that contributed to the vulnerability of SMEs included: the short-term nature of government-led business recovery programmes, the limited support available to SMEs who were indirectly impacted by extreme events, the limited support and recognition given to the psychological impacts on SMEs of extreme events, the eligibility criteria for government recovery funds are rigid and inflexible, and recovery processes are reactive and overlook the underlying business vulnerability associated with prevention and preparedness. In addition, as long term climate change is perceived as being outside traditional short term planning horizons (2-5 years), SMEs are more likely to adopt strategies which address climate extremes rather than climate change. There is a need to move the focus of SME resilience strategies away from reactive disaster recovery towards a long term approach of reducing conditions that may generate vulnerability. This report identified opportunities on several fronts to build on existing programmes and strengthen existing networks to support vulnerability reduction.