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GE, Bayer, BASF Join Other Top Firms in UN Climate Adaptation Project

<p>The UN unveiled a new database yesterday spotlighting how companies around the world are adapting to climate change.</p>

By 2020, some of the most desirable regions in Latin America for growing coffee may be too hot, according to climate change models. By 2050, some high altitude areas now considered to be too cool just may be ideal.

To help local farmers understand how climate change will impact their livelihoods, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters partnered with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and Catholic Relief Services to launch the Coffee Under Pressure project, one of dozens of case studies spotlighted by the United Nation as part of a new database unveiled yesterday.

The unifying theme of all case studies in the database is climate change adaptation and how businesses from around the world, including GE, Bayer, Cisco, Intel, Levi Strauss and John Deere, are working to reduce related risks and seize potential opportunities in a world with greenhouse gas emissions growth that shows no sign of slowing.

"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," UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said from the World Economic Forum in Davos.

A closer look at the case studies at the U.N. website shows how companies view water to be a growing concern in the coming years. At least 27 of the case studies focused directly or indirectly on water, such as Unilever launching a fabric softener that slashes the amount of water needed to rinse detergent by two-thirds for hand-washed laundry. Thames Water in the U.K. has also embarked on a plan to improve water efficiency and flood resilience between 2010 and 2035.

Other examples include:

• German insurer Allianz launched several microinsurance products to vulnerable populations in India, Indonesia, Egypt and Brazil, which has also added thousands of new customers to its rolls.

• The Scotch Whisky Association trade group commissioned a study to explore the long-term risks of climate change and held industry workshops to raise awareness of impacts and adaptation measures.

• Bangladesh firm Tartari is working with a local nonprofit on R&D in order to build fiberglass fishing boats that are more suited to volatile weather conditions.

Underscoring all of these case studies is a decidedly long-term business view, which is still something of a rarity these days. In fact, it is exactly the opposite -- short-term thinking -- that remains one of the biggest threats to a massive uptake of sustainability in business, according to new poll released by the U.N. Environment Programme yesterday.

An overwhelming 88 percent of experts in The Sustainabiity Survey from GlobeScan and SustainAbility said short-term financial pressure is the biggest corporate sustainability barrier, followed by inappropriate regulations (65 percent) low awareness (65 percent) and low consumer demand (57 percent).

Coffee bean image via Shutterstock.

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