Conducting a Climate Risk Assessment through Scenario Analysis hero image

Conducting a Climate Risk Assessment through Scenario Analysis

Photo by Andreas Balg on iStock

July 13, 2023


BSR worked with Mercer International Inc., a Nasdaq-listed global producer of market pulp and solid wood products, to conduct a climate scenario analysis. With a tailored set of three climate scenarios, BSR helped Mercer explore key climate-related risks and opportunities facing the company and identify strategic interventions to improve the overall resilience of the company’s strategy. With strong engagement from senior leaders throughout the process, this effort was not a “check-the-box” disclosure exercise—instead, it was a strong analysis of climate impacts to Mercer’s business strategy.


Mercer is a global producer of market pulp and solid wood products. With mills and manufacturing facilities in North America and Germany, Mercer is strategically located next to strong softwood and hardwood suppliers. Softwood and hardwood pulp are utilized for tissue, specialty paper, packaging, and more. In addition to pulp, Mercer also produces dimensional lumber for construction as well as cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT is an alternative building product used to replace steel and concrete, driving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in building construction.  

The Challenge

Given Mercer’s dependence on sustainable forests for pulp and timber production, the company must have a clear understanding of climate impacts. At the current level of warming, forests from which Mercer sources have already experienced climate-related events like disease, insect infestation, and increased wildfires. These, in turn, impacted the company’s operations, supply, and logistics. In 2021, an atmospheric river event in Canada affected Mercer’s transport and logistics of supply and delivery of its products to key markets. With these existing impacts on supply and logistics, as well as forecasted rise in demand for pulp and timber products, focusing on resilience and strategic interventions to key climate impacts is critical for Mercer's business.

Our climate scenario analysis approach helped facilitate that strategic thinking. After conducting Mercer’s first climate scenario analysis in 2020, Mercer was familiar with BSR's deep expertise in futures thinking and engaged BSR to help refresh and assess climate-related impacts on various business units across the globe. Mercer also understands the need to periodically reevaluate ever-changing climate risks, and it considers climate scenario analysis based on the latest science to be a crucial solution for companies and sectors highly exposed to climate change.

BSR’s Response

Our first step for this work was to understand Mercer's business strategy and market positioning in order to augment and tailor our off-the-shelf climate scenario narratives, originally developed in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. The scenario set was built using the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) base scenarios and projections.

BSR built out three in-depth scenario narratives: Current Policies, Net Zero 2050, and Delayed Transitions. This involved researching emerging trends and signals of change as well as integrating data projections from the NGFS climate scenario dataset. To tailor the scenarios, in collaboration with the Mercer team, BSR identified four critical themes of uncertainty for the company and conducted desktop research and analysis to learn how these themes could plausibly play out in each scenario. We also identified six critical transition data projections from the NGFS database and three key physical climate impact projections from the Climate Analytics portal that were relevant for Mercer’s main regions of supply and operation in Canada and Germany. With the full set of tailored scenarios, we began the internal stakeholder engagement process.

Our initial engagement consisted of small workshop sessions across critical business functions to identify a long list of climate-related risks and opportunities that Mercer might face in each future scenario. Through these working sessions, we engaged with 16 senior leaders across six functional areas, including operations, finance, forest management, sales, and logistics.

BSR collated the key risks and opportunities by scenario and identified thematic hotspots and overarching future trends that may present significant risks or opportunities to Mercer's business across the entire set of scenarios.

Our final workshop, the last step in our approach, brought back the senior leaders from the initial interviews. During the workshop, we started by validating the identified key risks and opportunities and then shifted quickly into exploring the hotspots in more detail. For each hotspot, BSR facilitated small group discussions to explore clear actions and strategic interventions that Mercer can perform across the organization to mitigate risks and seize the opportunities related to each hotspot. This final session encompassed actions to increase and enhance strategic resilience to these climate impacts.


BSR conducted a robust scenarios-based climate risk assessment to prepare Mercer for a TCFD-aligned climate risk disclosure. More importantly, BSR helped facilitate critical strategic conversations on the resilience of the overall business and growth strategy to key climate risks, and we equipped Mercer with a near-term roadmap that outlined key next steps and governance-related responsibilities to ensure successful management and mitigation of these risks.

"This in-depth assessment of Mercer's future resilience under all three climate change scenarios has enabled our senior leadership, across all key functional areas, to better understand the risk and opportunities of climate change and develop a more robust strategy that will incorporate these key learnings."

Bill Adams, VP, Sustainability and Innovation

After our work with Mercer, the company was able to produce a robust TCFD report and integrate resilience into its business strategy and planning processes.


As part of a wider set of activities in the business toolkit, climate scenario analysis is a powerful method for uncovering and assessing a company’s strategy against uncertain climate risks and emerging opportunities. By testing how to best respond to these uncertainties using actions that build resilience, companies can explore pathways for delivering successful business outcomes in the face of climate change.

"Undertaking a climate scenarios analysis was a strategic necessity for Mercer to ensure resilient operations and achieve sustainable growth. Proactively assessing and preparing for the potential effects of climate change helps businesses navigate the uncertain future. Specifically, it enables informed decision-making, fosters innovation, and helps build operations that can adapt, thrive, and contribute to a more sustainable world.”

Shahed Tootoonian, Director, Finance and Sustainability

Get in Touch

Interested in enhancing your company’s strategic resilience to climate impacts through climate scenario analysis? Please contact BSR’s Climate Team.

This case study was written by Nina Hatch and Ameer Azim

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