Building disaster resilience in business teams, local communities and supply chains

By Jane Muller, Senior Research & Policy Officer, Growcom


Resilience is one of those words that has become simplistic, glib, glossy, and empty of meaning. It is a word that is too lightly bandied about, particularly in the media and by our political leaders.

And yet, resilience is a powerful concept. The trick is to stop using it as an adjective and start using it as a verb. This is because resilience is not really a property – a thing some people or communities simply have. Rather, it is a process – and it works best when we invest in it. Resilience is built over time through practical actions.

In the horticulture game, everything is about team work – in families and business teams, in local communities, across supply chains, and within industries. And when natural disasters occur, members of whole communities are exposed together and must recover together. Social research done in rural and disaster affected communities provides some insights into ways people can work together to enhance business, community and industry resilience to natural disasters.

Resilience helps us do more than cope in a crisis. It helps us respond to on-going pressures, adapt to changing environments, navigate the path ahead and collectively shape the future. Building a capacity for resilience requires deliberate and collaborative efforts, development of shared goals, strategic investment to improve assets, and creation of strong links that enable available resources to be networked and harnessed when re-building and recovering from disaster.

Here are some ideas for building collective resilience that seem relevant to horticulture businesses and industries.

In business teams

  • Keep up with current information, cultivate trusted sources of information, get together regularly to share and discuss new information to identify emerging risks and opportunities
  • Ensure that lessons learned from past experiences are incorporated into business plans, management arrangements, or work procedures
  • Make disaster response plans but also plan for not having a plan: support team members to develop their creativity, flexibility and abilities to improvise or innovate when unanticipated situations arise.

Local communities

  • Nurture the development of local leaders
  • Participate in industry events
  • Re-invigorate local networks to re-activate community connections, even through informal social get-togethers
  • Take stock of the resources available within local communities and think through how they can be mobilised and networked in times of crisis.
  • Harness diversity within local communities – what resources can be tapped into from diverse groups in the community?
  • Build stronger connections between fruit and vegetable industry members and local government / regional councils, particularly council’s disaster or emergency coordinator.

Supply chains

  • Invest in building trust and a collaborative approach between your partners through the supply chain
  • Work together to set goals and define shared objectives around disaster resilience and responses
  • Assess climate risks across the supply chain and develop management strategies
  • Consider ways that risks could be more evenly shared between supply chain partners
  • Strategise ways to balance efficiencies with redundancies or reserves
  • Develop contingency plans and response plans that build competitive advantage.