Does it matter what you call it? Reflections on how companies voluntarily disclose their adaptation activities


Adapting to climate change requires the engagement of a wide range of stakeholders, including the private sector. However, little is still known about if and how corporations, particularly those operating in the Global South, are involved in climate adaptation. This paper explores the existing evidence base, provides insights into multinational corporations’ adaptation framings in their external communication, and asks what we can learn from corporate adaptation disclosure. Our review suggests that if adaptation is used in corporate disclosure, it is commonly framed along one or more of the following categories: risk reduction, supply chain management, corporate social responsibility, and/or business opportunities. We investigate this in greater detail for global Food and Beverage (F&B) companies that operate in developing countries. By comparing adaptation case studies both in the UNFCCC’s Private Sector Initiative (PSI) database and in the companies’ own sustainability reporting, we find that F&B companies frame their engagement using risk and supply chain-based language, with a focus on short-term business opportunities, while the need for strategic planning for longer-term action in response to future risks is largely missing from the companies’ discourse. We argue that a better understanding of private sector’s terminology and disclosure on adaptation is important for establishing collaborative, multi-stakeholder processes of adaptation in developing countries.