Do Federal Agencies Address Climate Risk in the Supply Chain?

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report on how federal agencies are identifying, evaluating and addressing the impacts of climate change on their supply chains and suppliers.

Current efforts to build resilience in federal agencies

The report set out to identify the key challenges facing 24 surveyed federal agencies who where responsible for 98 percent of procurement budgets in 2013-2014. The agencies included the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and NASA. The report was prompted by a question from Congress.

The report surveys how and whether federal agencies have planned for climate change disruptions in their adaptation plans. Indeed, in November 2013, Executive Order 13653 established a directive to these organizations to build adaptation and resilience measures into their organization: “In doing so, agencies should promote:

(1) Engagement and strong partnerships and information sharing at all levels of government;

(2) Risk-informed decision-making and the tools to facilitate it;

(3) Adaptive learning, in which experiences serve as opportunities to inform and adjust future actions; and

(4) Preparedness planning.

Few agencies are planning for climate risk in the supply chain

The report found 25 percent of agencies surveyed did not include climate risk to the agency’s supply chain, and most agencies had only included some information – general or agency-specific risks. Only three agencies had gone as far as identifying potential agency-specific actions, and one had a long term plan and strategy to address those risks.

GAO Analysis of agencies' climate adaptation plans
GAO Analysis of agency climate adaptation plans

Knowledge gaps and lack of tools are the biggest barriers

The report outlined some of the barriers to action on building resilience, citing hurdles such as planning timelines not aligning with federal budget cycles, a lack of institutional knowledge on best practices for assessing risk, and a lack of cross agency coordination to integrate adaptation strategies into shared supply chains.

It also identified information asymmetries about how adaptation success is measured as a hurdle for federal agencies. Of the 24 federal agencies surveyed, only four identified agency specific actions around building supply chain resilience. One in 24 had gone as far as mentioning budget needs to achieve their goals, and seven out of 24 did not attempt to identify the risks of climate change on their supply chains, feeling intimidated by “a lack of defined best practice.”

Getting over the barriers

Supply chains raise complex issues for organizations trying to prepare for climate change. The lack of visibility of supplier location and vulnerability make it difficult to fully assess risks, let alone identify effective measures to address and prevent or mitigate those risks.
At Four Twenty Seven, we have created tools to help large organizations in the government and private sector identify hotspots and quantify climate risk exposure in their supply chain. Learn how we can help your organization map risk across commodities and suppliers and build resilience into your organizational framework.