From Better World Club
Turmoil at the US Chamber of Commerce Is The Backdrop
A number of Responsible Business Organizations came together on October 23rd to agree on principles for a network of responsible business organizations, the American Sustainable Business Council. The groups included New Voice of Business, Green America, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), and B Corporation, among others…
The new network comes together against the backdrop of turmoil at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has announced a hardline stance against action on climate change, a policy that may have breached the Chamber’s internal rules as it was not passed by a board vote.
In September and October 2009, several companies quit the Chamber due to the Chamber’s stance on environmental impact reform, including Exelon Corp, PG&E Corp, PNM Resources, Apple Inc, and Mohawk Fine Paper. Nike, Inc decided to resign their board of directors position but to continue membership. Nike stated that they believe they can better influence policy by being part of the conversation.
Give credit where it’s due: The US Chamber of Commerce “Knows Drama” (our apologies to TNT). In a move calculated to simultaneously grandstand and stall for time (until another round of elections?), the Chamber attempted to force the Environmental Protection Agency to arrange a climate science hearing before any federal climate regulations were passed and in order to challenge the very notion of human-caused climate change.
In any case, regardless of their impact on society and whether they are warming or cooling the earth, the fossil fuels that are a substantial source of climate change are polluting. And products should be priced so that pollution and its impact on 3rd parties are discouraged.
The Chamber opposes the Waxman-Markey energy bill and is threatening to sue the EPA if it regulates greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that such a move would dramatically increase “the price of everything that uses energy.” Bill Kovacs, the Chamber’s vice president for the environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, still asserts that the minority views of climate change “whistleblowers” and skeptics are being ignored by policymakers.
In embracing this aggressively narrow climate policy, the Chamber appears to have gone around its usual policy-making process. According to the Chamber’s internal rules, its policies and positions are developed by committees and then approved or rejected by its board of directors. But Donald J. Sterhan, Chair of the Chamber’s energy and environment committee, says that its Board of Directors and its committees never formally endorsed the climate stance.
“There was no vote taken,” he says. He adds that his committee held “really more of an information discussion” than a policy debate on the issue. The final decision to challenge the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gasses was apparently a reflection of the Chamber’s staff’s position.
Nike made clear that this lack of transparency and accountability led to its decision to quit the Chamber’s Board. Nike stated that the process in this instance conflicted with the organization’s own democratic principles, suggesting that the outsized influence of a few Chamber members is determining its climate stance.
Meanwhile, the Chamber’s self-description that it represents 3 million businesses has also come into question. Recent reports indicate that it is closer to 300,000 — or fewer.