By Sophie Lichtenstein
Verisk Maplecroft’s Climate and Resilience practice is one of several teams under Maplecroft, a risk analytics and intelligence firm. Verisk Maplecroft’s operations primarily seek to provide information to organizations using data analytics to help them make more informed decisions. The Climate and Resilience team, which applies data analytics to climate change and nature-related issues operates under Verisk.
Dr. Richard Hewston is the strategic lead for this project– meaning that he leads the team’s efforts to provide data analytics to, consult with, and work directly with clients to help them deal with the particular climate and nature issues they are facing in their work. Hewston’s work extends to a range of different organizations, from multinational companies to financial institutions and government agencies.
Hewston’s background is in academia, and prior to joining the team at Verisk Maplecroft, his work involved generating data for climate modeling. Now, Hewston applies existing research to real problems at hand for organizations as the clean energy transition progresses and people everywhere face the consequences of climate change. His transition from academia to the private sector was driven in part by the possibility for Hewston to apply knowledge to action. Since making this transition, Hewston says he “finds it incredibly rewarding to work with a breadth of organizations.”
With his academic background, Hewston says his work is rooted in sound data and sound analysis– which he says “is the better way to help deliver the insight that gets you to more informed decision-making.”
In tackling these big problems, Verisk Maplecroft seeks to consider the impact of climate change, the transition to a low-carbon economy, and the impact of an organization itself. With each client or company, Verisk Maplecroft works to consider how these changes are unique to their needs, and how their outputs contribute to climate issues.
One factor that has a huge influence on these phenomena is the physical effects of climate change. With the threat of exposure to water stress, drought, and flooding, risk intelligence is an important part of Verisk Maplecroft’s work. They conduct scenario analyses, determining risk exposure in the current climate as well as in worst-case and best-case scenarios that could occur in the future.
Since Hewston began his work at Verisk Maplecroft about ten years ago, he’s been able to see some positive change in climate adaptation and mitigation. One improvement that he encounters is that the quality of data has improved, as well as different companies’ willingness and ability to use and apply data to their output. Hewston has also seen companies gaining a better handle on their scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions– meaning that they can now monitor and report on their own direct emissions. A current challenge that companies are encountering is scope 3 emissions, which are indirect emissions coming from sometimes large and complex supply chains that are more difficult to track and report on. Other improvements include efficiency and cleanliness, local stakeholder involvement, and community relations, all of which are vital for meeting company and climate goals.
In Hewston’s work at Verisk Maplecroft, he has observed that collaboration between companies has the greatest potential to create real change. “Knowledge transfer and best practice sharing can influence those different companies and help them move in the same direction,” said Hewston. While competition, he says, can be part of what drives a company, there are other factors, like the benefits of sustainability and reduced costs, that also motivate companies to reach their goals. Overall, Hewston has found that his work makes him more hopeful about the future of our climate, and the incremental change will translate into larger rewards.