NOAA Information for Climate Resilience and Sustainability

By Derek Arndt, Jenny Dissen, Michael Brewer, Erin Hiatt, Emily McAullife

In October 2021, the U.S. The Department of Commerce (DOC) worked with RILA’s Erin Hiatt and several retailers to coordinate a listening session for the retail industry and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The goal of the session was to understand needs and opportunities to better leverage NOAA’s climate information for the retail industry’s tactical and strategic decision-making around climate resilience and sustainability.

NOAA’s Derek Arndt, Jenny Dissen and Michael Brewer compiled a recap of the intent and takeaways from the listening session series, and shared perspectives and ideas on how RILA and NOAA can collaborate to provide actionable environmental information for the industry.

The fall listening session was a priority for DOC Secretary Gina Raimondo and NOAA Administrator Dr. Rick Spinrad as part of a larger effort to engage directly with industry leaders to understand how NOAA information can support their work and be better incorporated into industry decision-making. The session brought together government agency leaders from DOC and NOAA with executives from Best Buy, Gap Inc., Lowe’s, Walgreens, Walmart and other retail industry leaders convened by RILA’s Vice President of CSR Erin Hiatt. All participants offered perspectives and feedback, expressing how NOAA’s data and information is serving the industry and where improvements can be made.

“Addressing the climate crisis is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration and this listening session is an important first step in assessing how NOAA’s climate data and tools can help America’s retail leaders strengthen their resilience to climate impacts,” said Dr. Spinrad. “We know that the retail industry needs reliable, actionable environmental information to manage their risks, and I look forward to deepening our engagement and collaboration.”

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) is the Nation’s leading authority for environmental data and manages one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic research in the world. NCEI provides data and information that helps businesses and organizations across all sectors operate more efficiently, safely, environmentally, and economically, and make smart decisions in a changing climate.

Major takeaways from the listening session include:

  • Industry leaders from the retail sector value reliable, consistent and accurate environmental data information. Retailers, while valuing the data from NOAA, stressed the importance of standards and authoritative sources of climate information, products, and services. 
  • NOAA climate data and information must be easily obtainable and digestible to the industry and the general public. As extreme events wreak havoc on communities, the retail sector is often a critical source of support for communities before and after disasters. Datasets and information in a centralized location, geared towards the retail industry, will help strategists and planners expedite delivery of key products and services to help communities prepare for and rebuild following a disaster. 
  • Retail leaders need improved NOAA forecasts with actionable information 2-3 months in advance. NOAA should focus on longer-lead deterministic forecasts rather than probabilistic outlooks to aid planners with both short- and long-term supply chain planning as they rebuild communities.
  • Retail industry leaders value information on the impacts including the location, severity and magnitude and rely on the ability to compare across ranges of hazard types for supply chain planning. Having tools and visualizations that aid in understanding regional climate impacts, as well as adaptation options, is key as retailers connect with customers.

Expressing deep appreciation for the industry leaders’ engagement and insights in the session, Dr. Spinrad highlighted the importance of NOAA and the retail industry working together on climate information needs as NOAA works to build a Climate Ready Nation. There was recognition that the retail industry is part of a global supply chain network, and climate impacts and opportunities should entail collaboration with international partners to facilitate data and information sharing.

Whether from increased pollution or severe weather events, the impacts of emissions and climate change on human health are undeniable. As a healthcare company, Walgreens Boots Alliance is constantly looking for ways to partner with other like-minded companies, organizations or agencies to try and find ways to make our planet a healthier place to live. Following the listening session, our hope is that better usage of NOAA data unlocks information WBA can use to help both the people and the communities we serve to be healthier, safer and more resilient. We look forward to working with NOAA and RILA on the opportunities ahead.

John J. Kotlarczyk, Senior Director, CSR & Waste Reduction - Walgreens Boots Alliance

RILA and its members expressed interest in continuing the dialogue in future sessions with NOAA and climate information specialists. A better understanding of NOAA’s environmental data and products will aid companies in incorporating climate information into their risk management and CSR operations. This data can also support emergency management leads and robust supply chain planning. Collaboration between NOAA and RILA will further expand this year to inform retail companies and communities about the availability of critical environmental data and the role the retail industry plays in tackling climate change and preparing for and responding to extreme events. NOAA NCEI’s engagement team and RILA are currently in discussions on hosting a webinar focused on examples of how retail customers are using NOAA data and resources.

We appreciate the opportunity to engage with NOAA to share more about our sustainability goals and our commitment to climate action, and discuss the role we can play in strengthening communities through improved information flow of the potential impacts of a changing climate. We remain committed to working collaboratively with the NOAA to improve community resiliency and minimize the negative impacts of a changing climate on customers, our business and the supply chain.

Zachary Freeze, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives, Sustainability - Walmart

See RILA’s Retail Climate Priorities and key new resources like the Retail Climate Action Blueprint to learn more about the retail industry’s commitment to continuing to be an ally in the fight against climate change, including partnering with agencies and policymakers to provide constructive insights. For more information about future work planned as part of RILA’s partnership with NOAA, industry approaches to engaging on Climate and ESG, or RILA’s executive communities working on these topics, please reach out to RILA Vice President of CSR Erin Hiatt.
Erin Hiatt is the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at RILA
Jenny Dissen is with NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies
Derek Arndt and Michael Brewer are with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information
Emily McAuliffe is Special Assistant with NOAA’s Office of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere

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