As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What The Mass Exodus From The Chamber Of Commerce Means

Josh Marshall is right to underline this as a big story. With so many of the problems we face, there is no way we're going to get anywhere unless big business, which effectively controls our government, would come aboard for a solution. In many cases it's in their best interests. Businesses in America struggle to compete globally because they're the only group in the industrialized world shouldering the burden of health care costs. Businesses, especially insurance interests, will just get wiped out if global warming is allowed to continue unchecked, causing mass disasters; energy companies seek stability in pricing and want the added security of using renewable products instead of a rapidly depleting resource; and entrepreneurs can benefit greatly from increased investment in green technologies. In fact, energy efficiency and renewables can dramatically lower the operating costs of practically every business. Not to mention what Marshall cites, in writing about Nike and now Apple dropping out of the anti-science US Chamber of Commerce:

It's not hard for instance to understand why a company like Nike, which markets overwhelmingly to a younger demographic and to some degree is in the business of marketing cool, would not like to be associated with anti-climate change science extremism. Similar things could be said about Apple, which markets to generally wealthier, more educated and I suspect -- though I don't know this specifically -- generally more progressive people.

There's simply mass awareness and politicization on this issue in a way there's not about most high stakes political questions. I also wonder whether some companies may not be sensitive to the impact on their reputation on an international trade, those doing a substantial amount of international trade. But the mass politicization and company's sensitivity to domestic brand damage strikes me as the key takeaway for now.

In this sense, Al Gore's campaign to raise awareness about the climate crisis was successful to an extent, because it put the concept of going green near the top of people's minds, in an almost unconscious way, that led all kinds of retail brands to rush to put out the most "green" products and burnish their corporate image. Some of it is greenwashing, but if it has the same practical effect of making it easier for government to maneuver and actually pass a cap and trade bill, then greenwash away, I say.

President Obama, a brand in his own right, has jumped on board with this strategy by clarifying rules for federal employees:

The Executive Order, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, will require agencies to set, no later than 90 days from now, sustainability targets for 2020. It will require serious efforts to measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Here are some of the explicit targets laid out within the Executive Order:

• 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;

• 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020;

•50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015;

• 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements;

• Implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement;

• Development of guidance for sustainable Federal building locations in alignment with the Livability Principles put forward by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

With millions of employees, the federal government is the largest energy consumer in the US economy, so their move to sustainability carries a lot of tangible weight.

We can accomplish very dramatic climate goals with little disruption to the overall global economy. All that we need is political will. Seeing business moving away from the status quo and toward change is a major step along that long road.

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