Business’ Most Powerful Tool For Fighting Climate Change

Shareholders judge CEOs by actions, not words; they want results. It’s time to apply the same standard to corporate behavior on climate change. Supportive statements are no longer enough—companies need to do everything in their power to create real change on a global scale.

The situation really is that urgent. The best science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world must produce no more climate pollution than we can remove – reaching what we call a 100% clean economy – soon after mid-century. To reach that global goal of net-zero pollution, the United States and other advanced economies must hit the mark by 2050 at the latest. It’s an ambitious but achievable objective that will require a serious commitment not just from governments, but also from businesses that want to be part of the solution.Today In: Business

That’s why I joined with the leaders of 10 other environmental and sustainable business organizations in an open letter calling on business leaders to push for strong climate policy. 

CEOs who are serious about climate action must use the most powerful tool in the corporate arsenal: their political influence. Companies know how to make their voices heard by Congress. Business leaders are respected as economic authorities and political players in every congressional district. CEOs who do not push their members of Congress to support strong limits on climate pollution are not in this fight in a serious way. And the campaign for effective climate policy must also include trade associations and other business groups — we can no longer stand by while companies say the right things but have their trade associations do the dirty work of killing promising legislation.

Our open letter asks companies to:

  • Advocate for policies that are consistent with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050;
  • Align their trade associations’ climate policy advocacy to be consistent with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050; and
  • Allocate advocacy spending to advance climate policies, not obstruct them.

I’m encouraged by the growing number of companies pursuing science-based climate targets and committing to clean energy. But given that we have waited so long to act, and are not on course to meet the goal of averting the worst impacts of climate change, we need even more aggressive action from the corporate community

The good news is that there are examples of leadership that other companies can follow. The members of the CEO Climate Dialogue and the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance have embraced their responsibility to push for bold climate policy, as have members of the Climate Leadership Council and the Ceres BICEP network.

CEOs who lead on climate policy will not only help limit a huge danger to our economy, but will also know they did everything possible to leave a better world for their children and grandchildren. Fred Krupp

As we saw during the student strikes in September, the rising generation will not be satisfied with good intentions and promises. As Greta Thunberg told US Senators, “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.” The same applies to companies—because employees, customers and investors are watching. 

We cannot address the global challenge of climate change without leadership from the United States. We are the world’s largest economy and second-largest emitter, and other nations follow our example. In our political system, making progress will require a serious effort by business leaders to build bipartisan support for bold climate policy from the Congress. CEOs who lead on climate policy will not only help limit a huge danger to our economy, but will also know they did everything possible to leave a better world for their children and grandchildren. 


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