Can Investors Anticipate the Impacts of Climate Change on Equities?

427 ANALYSIS – The physical impacts of climate change drive millions of dollars of losses for corporations every year, as experienced by Honda and Toyota during the 2011 floods in Thailand. Investors equipped with data on corporate production facilities and climate projections can manage their risk exposure more effectively and reduce downside risk.

Risk is one of the most widely understood and discussed components of the investment management process today. Informed tradeoffs of risk and return are fundamental to modern investment practices across asset classes and investment styles.  And yet, an important dimension of risk – physical risk from companies’ exposure to climate volatility – has yet to find its way into the mainstream investment process.

Monsoons Damage Automobile Manufacturers

Climate change’s influence on economies, sectors and companies is an increasingly important factor in identifying and balancing the tradeoffs between risk and return.  For example, the heavy monsoon season that led to severe flooding across Thailand in late June 2011 through December, inundated 30,000 square kilometersand caused widespread economic damage. Automobile manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda were particularly affected by suspended operations and supply chain disruptions, which led to reduced production internationally and affected global sales and profitability long after the rains stopped.

Figure 1. Honda and Toyota facilities’ exposure to extreme rainfall. Orange dots represent facilities with higher risk.

As shown in Figure 1, both companies possess a diversified set of production facilities in the area affected by the flooding, including stamping facilities and sub-component manufacturers, which do not only service downstream processes in Thailand but in other production centers as well. These same facilities all score high for extreme rainfall in our global corporate facility database, signaling high vulnerability to flood risk for Honda and Toyota – a risk that will only worsen in the future.

Figure 2. Japanese Automobile & Components Manufacturers’ exposure to sea level rise by facility. Red indicates high sea level risk, while green represents lower risk.

Sea Level Rise in Japan

Investors must also anticipate forward-looking risks – what will climate change bring, and which companies are most affected? Understanding and preparing for volatility in returns requires an in-depth awareness of a company’s facilities and the climate risks which those facilities face.  Given their global footprint, many businesses are exposed to diverse hazards such as extreme heat, water stress, cyclones and sea level rise, in addition to extreme precipitation. Thus, the factors we include to model a company’s physical risk to climate change include the sector characteristics, operational needs and the regional conditions where facilities are located. While flood damage and manufacturing delays in Thailand damaged Honda and Toyota, Figure 2. shows these companies are also exposed to sea level rise at hundreds of facilities in their home market of Japan.

Assessing Companies’ Exposure to Climate Risk

Our data interweaves climate analytics with financial markets data to provide a robust view of companies’ risks and identify those that are less likely to experience financial losses due to increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Facility-level assessment of these risks is an intensely data-driven exercise that requires the combination of terabytes of data from climate models with information on complex company structures. We translate this analysis into a clear result to inform financial strategy. Armed with this understanding, investors and corporations alike can achieve a new and more valuable balance of risk and return.

Figure 3. Global exposure to water stress of all facilities in Four Twenty Seven’s database.

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Four Twenty Seven’s ever-growing database now includes close to one million corporate sites and covers over 1800 publicly-traded companies. We offer equity risk scoring and real asset screening services to help investors and corporations leverage this data.

 

  1. Emma L. Gale and Mark A. Saunders, “The 2011 Thailand Flood: Climate Causes and Return Periods,” Weather 68, no. 9 (2013): 233–37.