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January 30, 2012
UN Adaptation Database Highlights Corporate Sustainability Efforts
    by Robert Kropp

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change publishes an online database featuring case studies of climate change adaptation activities undertaken by private companies.

The Private Sector Initiative (PSI) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) seeks to encourage the involvement of the private sector in climate change adaptation. Considering the disheartening results of a survey recently commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the need for encouragement remains pronounced.

According to the survey, which was conducted for UNEP by GlobeScan and SustainAbility, 88% of respondents cited financial short-termism, or shareowner impatience for financial returns, as the most significant barrier to corporate uptake of sustainability.

The Private Sector Initiative is part of UNFCCC's Nairobi work program (NWP), designed to help small developing nations on the front lines of climate change with adaptation efforts. The involvement of the private sector will be critical in meeting the demands of adaptation, and despite the results of UNEP's survey there are a number of corporations already involved in the effort.

UNFCCC recently announced the publication of an online database, featuring case studies of climate change adaptation activities undertaken by private companies.

"Adaptation activities may relate either to ensuring the resilience of business operations, or the provision of technologies or services that assist in the adaptation in vulnerable communities," UNFCC stated.

Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Davos, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, "By showcasing private sector adaptation success stories, we intend to help both communities and businesses become more climate-resilient and to put the benefits and business sense of adaptation firmly on the agenda of the private sector."

The case studies included in the database indicate that for many corporations, sustainability has become central to their business models.

For instance, in a case study entitled Investing in adaptation, Calvert Investments lists as its adaptation activities the following: involvement in the Partnership for Resilience and Environmental Preparedness (PREP) coalition of businesses; shareowner action to encourage companies in its portfolios to "develop forward-thinking climate strategies that address risks and opportunities from climate change;" and the Calvert Global Water Fund, which invests in companies addressing water resource issues.

Another case study highlights a partnership of Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to establish watershed restoration and community natural resource management projects in Thailand and Vietnam.

The law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, author of the landmark Freshfields report, submitted a case study describing its donation of funds to install rainwater harvesting technology in schools in Mozambique.

"The initiatives detailed in the database both show how the private sector can secure early advantages by adapting without waiting for absolute policy certainty at the international level, and how governments and the private sector can work together to respond to climate change now," Figueres said.


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