Jessica Ellerm is a thought leader specializing in Small Business and the Gig Economy and is the CEO and Co-Founder of Zuper, a neowealth disruptor in Australia.
It’s hard to think about much else in Australia right now, other than bushfires. They are consuming our media and our daily discussions with friends, neighbours and work colleagues.
After days of smoke blanketing our major cities, we’re slowly becoming accustomed to the sight of commuters wearing P2 masks and the disconcerting smell of a bonfire that hits us when we step outside in the morning. What we once associated with holiday campfires and summer catch-up BBQs with friends and family, now feels distinctly more ominous.
We know this will pass. The fires will eventually be bought under control, the rain will come and the weather will cool as the seasons change. However the relief will be short lived. Next summer it is increasingly likely they will arrive sooner and threaten more lives. That knowledge has caused a quiet but palpable anxiety to descended upon the nation. How on earth can we adapt to the upheaval climate change is bringing, and how can we adapt fast?
Finance has a unique role to play in this adaptation journey, and businesses need help moving from the old ways to the new. Small business in particular needs targeted technology help sooner – they are far more exposed to the impacts of floods, bushfires and extreme weather events. Small business is the bedrock of the Australian economy, and already economists are estimating a 0.25% – 1% hit on GDP will occur, as a result of the bushfires. You don’t need an economics degree to understand the flow on impact of this through the economy.
Western economies, especially Australia, must start the process of blending fintech with cleantech now if we are to reverse and prevent this economic downward trend. We must stop looking at climate change as a detractor from growth, and instead realise that by adapting to it, we will actually sustain growth.
While change has been glacially slow at the federal level in Australia around this issue, the good news is that some state governments are already talking about the need to help small businesses adapt to climate change.
Last July the Queensland Government released a media statement announcing they would launch a Small and Medium Enterprise Sector Adaptation Plan, that specifically recognised the challenges nearly half-a-million small and medium sized businesses in the region, which is prone to flooding and bushfires, are facing due to climate change.
The costs of upgrading air conditioning and refrigeration equipment in the face of increasing temperatures is real. The cost of waste levies, for businesses without waste minimisation strategies, will start to hit the bottom line. These are not imaginary future bills small businesses will be faced with – they are starting to become real now. Rising insurance costs are just another nail in the coffin for regional business owners. Fintech and cleantech, coming together, now has a real and important problem to solve.
What those with an eye for a ‘good’ opportunity will see is that financing is a necessary role in this process. Smart financing, that can make this easy for small businesses and future proof them, is squarely within the realm of a proactive and gutsy fintech. One that believes in making cleantech widely available. It’s arguable businesses that do decide to future proof themselves in this way are a better credit risk anyway. Insurers will certainly think so.
Australia, a mostly arid continent, can’t afford to lose the battle against climate change. It’s often true that in the most adverse conditions, the most radical innovation can be birthed. Let us hope that out of the ashes of this crisis Australia and its innovators take the front foot on climate change adaptation, and use all its smarts and the technology at its disposal. And then take it to the world.