The Business Case for Clean Energy
From our friends at the American Sustainable Business Council:
Our guess is that you may have joined your local chamber of commerce because it works hard to improve cooperation among local businesses—indeed, there have been local chambers of commerce in the U.S. since 1768, when merchants joined together in New York City.
But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1912, is different. Despite its claims to represent small businesses, it’s actually a giant lobbying machine, spending more money to influence the political process than anyone else in Washington.
As businesspeople, we have a critical role to play in shaping a more sustainable economy. We know firsthand that a healthy environment fosters stronger communities, innovation and new opportunities. For too long, much of the media and political establishment have assumed that the US Chamber is the voice of business. That is simply not correct. As more companies adopt socially responsible and triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) practices, new organizations like the American Sustainable Business Council are working to influence a range of policies (environmental, clean energy, campaign finance, tax equity, small business development, health care and sustainable agriculture) at the local, state and federal level. Now is the time for sustainability-minded companies to become involved.
The Chamber credibility as the ‘voice’ of the business community disappears when fifty five percent of its budget last year came from just 16 companies. Which 16? No one knows—the Chamber doesn’t have to say who provides its money. But its board of directors is dominated by huge businesses, with a concentration in the dirty energy industry. And among the companies that announced their donations last year, $1 million came from the Fox Broadcasting Network. Its host Glenn Beck urged his viewers to donate to the Chamber—and a U.S. Chamber official called in to his program to thank him for his support.
Maybe that’s why the Chamber of Commerce has opposed every piece of legislation designed to slow the onset of global warming—in recent months it has tried to block the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act, arguing that global warming would be “on balance beneficial to humans” because fewer people would freeze to death and that in any event “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”
While lacking credibility from a scientific perspective, this claim also makes little economic sense. As businesspeople, we know the importance that regulatory standards serve in sending a clear market signal to investors and entrepreneurs about new opportunities. The Chamber’s tacit of delaying action only creates more uncertainty and risk for businesses. We also know that numerous product innovations, clean energy investments and new service offerings will flow from a consistent EPA effort to regulate greenhouse emissions. As many states across the nation have demonstrated, policies that address greenhouse-gas emissions do not impair economic growth. To the contrary, they enhance it by attracting venture and institutional investors and new high technology and manufacturing companies.
All this is lost on the Chamber however as they spent more money than any other group last year in the Congressional elections, supporting Republicans more than 90% of the time—in part because they’d cast what the Chamber called a “key vote” against climate legislation.
If this kind of extreme partisan ideology makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. In the last year, lots of big companies have left the US Chamber of Commerce, or announced that the Chamber didn’t speak for them on climate and energy issues. For instance, Apple Computer—ranked as the most innovative company in America—quit the Chamber last year because “we strongly object” to the Chamber’s opposition to global warming legislation. Levi-Strauss, Nike, Microsoft, Best Buy, and General Electric have taken similar steps.
But there’s been even stronger opposition from local and regional chambers of commerce. From Florida and South Carolina to Missouri and Kansas, from Colorado and Pennsylvania to New Hampshire and Washington, dozens of local chambers of commerce have announced that the US Chamber doesn’t speak for them on these issues. Many have actually decided to cut all ties to the US Chamber of Commerce. Click here for a complete list of these local chamber statements.
In southern California, the Pasadena Chamber refused to align with the national body because “they do things and take positions sometimes that are antithetical to what our members think,” while in Philadelphia the local chamber has decided to stop paying dues because “we don’t believe” running partisan attack ads is “an ethical way to use the Chamber dues.” The board of the South Central Massachusetts Chamber voted 19-0 to leave the US Chamber because its ideological partisanship cast a “very bad light” on local businesses, while in Largo Florida the head of the local chamber explained that the US Chamber was composed “for the most part, political action committees and business lobbyists. They hold little resemblance to the local chambers of commerce that have been the cornerstone of their communities for generations.”
Now’s the time to develop a national movement and strong political voice for sustainability-minded companies. As political activity in Wisconsin and around the country unfolds it is clear that there is a need for a new paradigm for the economy and society. From the Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate spending on elections to the Koch Brothers’ support of climate deniers to the US Chamber of Commerce support of tax havens and offshoring of jobs to record corporate profits and depleted state and federal coffers, there is an unique opportunity to challenge not only the fairness of how our economy is structured, but also how functional the current set of laws and rules are. Responsible and sustainability minded companies can play an outsized role in making the argument that emasculated regulatory agencies, corporate oil and gas subsidies and tax cuts for millionaires will neither generate jobs nor foster a competitive economy. From the Supreme Court’s decision to allow unlimited corporate spending on elections to the Koch Brothers’ support of climate deniers to the US Chamber of Commerce support of tax havens and offshoring of jobs to record corporate profits and depleted state and federal coffers, there is an unique opportunity to challenge not only the fairness of how our economy is structured, but also how functional the current set of laws and rules are.
If you think the same way, we’d like to make it easy for you to show your independence. Here are three things that would be very helpful:
1. Join thousands of business leaders and local chambers across the country in declaring “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me.”
2. Help grow the movement: Ask five other local business owners to join “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me” campaign.
3. Join the sustainable business movement.
|Become part of the American Sustainable Business Council to help build a more vibrant, just and sustainable American economy or the many other organizations working at the national, state and local level.|