When Kara Hurst, the CEO of The Sustainability Consortium — the global group of companies working to improve consumer product sustainability — first uttered the words “commodity mapping” a few months ago, I more or less intuitively got it. And it was instantly appealing: a methodology for understanding the geography of one’s supply chain, or at least the commodities being purchased, and the environmental conditions of the places from where they were being sourced.
Commodity mapping was the latest of what I’d seen in recent months: tools and information resources geared to provide insight into key supply-chain regions and, by implication, the risks a company might face from region to region.
For example, there’s GAIN, the Global Adaptation Index housed at Notre Dame University, “the world’s only index measuring the vulnerability of the world's nations to climate change and their readiness to adapt.” It rates and ranks the readiness and vulnerability of more than 175 countries by six key indicators: water, food, health, ecosystem services, human habitat and infrastructure.

It's easy to talk about companies needing to understand climate risks in their supply chains. It's a lot harder to do something about it.
Risk and supply chains were woven tightly throughout the conversation at the Climate Leadership Conference last week in San Diego. It brought together leaders across public and private sectors — from business to government to utilities — to explore the latest science, projections and opportunities presented by increasing climatological changes. This is hardly the only recent event to cover this ground. The 2014 World Economic Forum called climate change an "economically disruptive force," and climate-related risks are rising on the agenda of global companies in the past years — for good reason. In Davos last month, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, called on corporate leaders to take action: "Be the first mover. Use smart due diligence. ... It's simple self-interest. Every company, investor, and bank that screens new and existing investment for climate risk is simply being pragmatic."

Climate indicators and country risk ratings developed by the University of Notre DameGlobal Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) will be instrumental in a new partnership announced Tuesday (Feb. 25) whose goal is to develop the Climate Change Risk Management (CCRM) application. This application, which will enable large corporations to quickly map and quantify global supply chain risks due to climate change, leverages climate indicators and country risk ratings developed by ND-GAIN, the world’s leading research index showing which countries are best prepared to deal with climate disruption and other global shifts. Four Twenty Seven, a climate consultancy based in the San Francisco Bay area, has partnered with supply chain assessment experts from Climate Earth Inc.to develop the enterprise-quality application. The announcement was made at the Climate Leadership Conference in San Diego.

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The ND-GAIN Index launched at the Wilson Center on December 12 during a two-day conference focused on security and the private sector’s role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. “We’re seeing new shifts in the way the world focuses its attention,” said former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas R. Pickering. “Certainly economics, over the last dozen years, has become as much of a center pivot of international activities and action as the traditional role of political diplomacy and indeed national security. And of course, the truth is, they’re intimately linked and intertwined.”

ND-GAIN is featured in the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Risk Report. Climate change mitigation and adaptation is listed as the fifth risk of “highest concern” in 2014, alongside interrelated risks of “water crises” and “food crises.” Discussing the need for developing countries to adapt to climate change, the report states: