This year’s extreme weather events have so far included record winter cold in Texas, unprecedented heat, drought and wildfires across the Western United States and Canada, and destructive flooding in Western Europe and Central China, to name a few. Now, with hurricane season nearing its peak and seasonal storms becoming ever larger and more unpredictable, calls for climate resilience have officially gone mainstream.
While government funding and programs will be critical to building more resilient infrastructure, such efforts cannot succeed without innovation and implementation from the private sector. And while much of the attention in these areas is rightly focused on the energy transition and other highly visible “green economy” companies, a host of less obvious actors will be equally critical in the push for climate resilience.
One such company is Simpson Manufacturing. Through its subsidiary Simpson Strong-Tie, Simpson produces a variety of products designed to secure wood and concrete structures. These products, which include connectors, truss plates, fastening systems, adhesives, and reinforcing fiber materials, are critical components for the construction sector. Simpson designs its products to resist earthquakes, high wind speeds and hurricanes, as well as the natural deterioration of concrete structures. Its products therefore have the potential not only to increase the resilience of built infrastructure, but to decrease the need to demolish, landfill and replace existing buildings as well.
Simpson’s environmental disclosures reveal other notable efforts as well: the company increased its steel recycling nearly 40% from 2015 to 2019, and decreased its water usage per employee by more than 40% over that same span. Two of its plants are powered by solar energy, and multiple North American facilities reclaim heat generated from air compressors and pump it back indoors to reduce heating energy consumption in winter. The company’s philanthropic efforts reflect a commitment to both resilience and equity, with over $8 million in cash, products and volunteer hours donated to Habitat for Humanity from 2007-2019. And in 2016 the company co-launched the “Habitat Strong” program, designed “to help local Habitat for Humanity organizations build stronger, more resilient homes across the U.S.” that are affordable for Habitat for Humanity homeowners in weather-sensitive areas. Simpson also lists its donations to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and its work with FEMA among its largest philanthropic efforts.
Beyond climate resilience, Simpson also has notable representation of women on its executive team and board, including the company’s CEO, Karen Colonias. Having started at the company as an engineer in 1984, Colonias rose through the ranks and by 2018 was named one of the “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” by the San Francisco Business Times. The company still has room for improvement in gender, racial and ethnic representation among its broader workforce (where it is more similar to the construction industry as a whole), its publication of employee diversity statistics in these categories represents a promising step.
In the emerging international conversation about climate resilience, it can be easy to focus on those who are producing prominent, new technologies to help mitigate climate change. But as demonstrated by Simpson Manufacturing, a niche company with a 65-year history, more traditional businesses have a critical role to play as well.