Why Nike, Apple, Best Buy, Johnson & Johnson, & Others Don't Jive with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

NikeAppleJohnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Levi Strauss, General Electric, General Motors, Shell, and other large international companies have opposed the US Chamber of Commerce, as well as a number of local chambers of commerce.

Well, if you’ve checked out my 3 other posts this week on 350.org’s “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for me” campaign (see below for links), you might already know why a number of the world’s largest companies and local chambers have expressed opposition to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the last year or so.

But it’s nice to get some direct quotes from their executives on this matter.

Best Buy (yes, the huge electronics store you’ve probably bought more than one product at), put its opposition to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce like this:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization with varied business stakeholders and interests. Those interests among industry don’t always align; on the issue of climate change legislation and regulatory actions, we have certainly seen this to be the case. Best Buy has stated that we are supportive of comprehensive climate change legislation and working to move toward a low carbon economy. With regard to the Chamber’s climate initiatives, the Chamber has not spoken for Best Buy on these issues. We have shared our views with the Chamber and will continue to do so. Best Buy’s commitment to sustainability aligns with global interests in addressing climate change. Best Buy is an innovator in offering our customers products and services that enable them to live more sustainably. At the same time, Best Buy is addressing our own carbon footprint resulting in a positive impact on the economic, environmental and societal well-being of the planet.

Nike, which left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce board in 2009, put its opposition like this:

Nike believes US businesses must advocate for aggressive climate change legislation and that the United States needs to move rapidly into a sustainable economy to remain competitive and ensure continued economic growth.

As we’ve stated, we fundamentally disagree with the US Chamber of Commerce on the issue of climate change and their recent action challenging the EPA is inconsistent with our view that climate change is an issue in need of urgent action.

The largest utility in the United States, Exelon, left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce completely in 2009. Here’s what it’s CEO John Rowe said:

The carbon-based free lunch is over. But while we can’t fix our climate problems for free, the price signal sent through a cap-and-trade system will drive low-carbon investments in the most inexpensive and efficient way possible…. Inaction on climate is not an option. If Congress does not act, the EPA will, and the result will be more arbitrary, more expensive, and more uncertain for investors and the industry than a reasonable, market-based legislative solution.

Apple, which also left the Chamber completely, made one of the stronger statements:

We strongly object to the Chamber’s recent comments opposing the EPA’s effort to limit greenhouse gases…. For those companies that cannot or will not [cut their global warming pollution], Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the Chamber at odds with us in this effort…. because the Chamber’s position differs so sharply from Apple’s, we have decided to resign our membership effective immediately.

Many more corporations, including approximately 80% of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, don’t seem to be “onboard” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to climate change action. Recognize any of these names?

General Electric (GE), General Motors (GM), Ford (F), Shell (RDS.A), ConocoPhillips (COP), Dow Chemical (DOW), DuPont (DD), Alcoa (AA), American Electric Power (AEP), Caterpillar (CAT), John Deere (DE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Nike (NKE) all support mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions.

But it’s not only corporations, as mentioned above — it’s also local chambers of commerce that are opposing and leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Here’s more on the difference between the national and local Chambers of Commerce from McKibben (in the next & last block quote, you can see that even the Greater New York Chamber and Seattle Chamber are also expressing opposition and cutting their ties to the national Chamber):

Though the U.S. Chamber claims to represent all of American business, their constituency is really that handful of huge dinosaur companies that would rather lobby than adapt. Around America, the local chambers of commerce are filled with millions of small businesses that in fact do what capitalists are supposed to do: adapt to new conditions, thrive on change, show the nimbleness and dexterity that distinguish them from lumbering monopolies. As Chris Mead, in an excellent history of the local chambers, makes clear, there are a thousand instances where clear-sighted businesspeople understood the future. Who lured the first movie producers to southern California? The LA Chamber, which sent out a promotional brochure in 1907. Why was the Lindbergh’s plane called “The Spirit of St. Louis”? Because the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce raised the money — that was a pretty good call.

Hopefully more citizens and businesses will urge their local chambers of commerce to leave soon. Are you preparing a plan to make that happen?

Learn more about “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for Me” campaign and get involved.

Here’s one more (for now) eloquent and insightful rallying call for that from McKibben:

What’s become clear is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization formed in 1912, more than a century after the first local chamber came into being, is anything but a benign umbrella for American small businesses. Quite the opposite: It’s a hard-edged ideological shop….

Thanks to the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision, there’s no way to keep the chamber and others from running their shadowy, election-time campaigns.  As long as monster companies are pumping money into their coffers, it’s “free speech” all the way, and they’ll simply keep on with their dodgy operations.

Still, the rest of us can stand up and be counted.  We can tell the Congressional representatives taking their money that they don’t speak for us. We can urge more big companies to act like Apple and Microsoft, which publicly denounced the chamber.  (It’s good to hear Levi Strauss, General Electric, and Best Buy making similar noises.)  We need to hear from more dissenting chambers of commerce.  It cheered me to find that the CEO of the Greater New York Chamber said, “They don’t represent me,” or to discover that just a few weeks ago the Seattle chamber cut its ties.

But it’s even more important to hear from small businesspeople, the very contingent the U.S. Chamber of Commerce draws on for its credibility. Across America in the coming months, volunteers from the climate change organization I helped to found, 350.org, will be fanning out to canvass local businesses — all those bakeries and beauty salons, colleges and chiropractors, pharmacies and fitness centers that belong to local chambers of commerce.

The volunteers will be asking for signatures on a statement announcing that “the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me,” and offering businesspeople the chance to post videos expressing just how differently they do think when it comes to global warming, energy, and the environment. It’s a chance to emphasize that American business should be about nimbleness, creativity, and adaptation — that it’s prepared to cope with changing circumstances, instead of using political cash to ensure that yesterday’s technologies remain on artificial life support.

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Image Credits: Mr. T in DC ; Paulo Sacramento ; Jeff Kubina ; TomStardust

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