There is a global-warming parade going on and everyone seems to want to join in. Well, not everyone. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has staked out its position that the assertion that global warming is harmful to human health is something that should not simply be assumed, but should be proven, before trillions of dollars are spent “fixing” it. Not an irrational position, but one which has caused five large companies to pull their support for the Chamber, the most visible being Nike and Apple. The question that should be asked is why -- why have the companies chosen to walk away from the Chamber?
Someone Else Is Better?
It certainly couldn’t be that they will be better represented by some other lobbying group. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $26 million in lobbying in 2009, which is double any other single entity. Historically, the Chamber has had, and spent, a lot of money and has been effective in Washington, D.C.
Difference of Opinion?
Could it be that these companies philosophically disagree with the Chamber and are willing to cut off their nose to spite their face? Well, Catherine Novell (V.P. of Worldwide Government Affairs at Apple) did say:
We strongly object to the Chamber’s recent comments opposing the EPA’s effort to limit greenhouse gases. . . . Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the Chamber at odds with us in this effort.
Nike, who relinquished its Chamber board seat but has not yet quit the group, said:
We believe that on this issue of climate change, the Chamber has not represented the diversity of perspective held by the board of directors.
General Electric and Johnson and Johnson have also issued statements that they disagree with the Chamber’s climate policy.
Certainly these companies, with their collective millions of shareholders, might choose to walk away from a $26 million lobbying force based on principle and righteous indignation. That’s possible. But perhaps something else is at work.
That's Where The Money Is?
Another possible explanation might be that they are doing what all companies strive to do — they are trying to sell their products to the greatest possible number of consumers. Perhaps these huge, market savvy companies believe that their customers believe that climate change is a fact that does not need debating and that these customers just might be offended by any one (or any company) that thinks otherwise. These companies have seen what happens when a company appears to be anti-environment, and it simply isn’t worth the risk. Of course, the Chamber doesn’t sell shoes or computers or contact lenses so they don’t need to worry about what the consumer might believe. But the Apples of this world do.
Ironically, environmentalists couldn't have a better friend than the Chamber right now. With each vocal defection, the inevitability of climate change legislation grows a little closer.
I’ve said it before: "An Inconvenient Truth" gave global-warming advocates a free pass. The parade of environmental reform has started and the huge elephant that is public opinion has already lumbered past the question of whether there is global warming and whether it is bad for us and has moved on to the question of what could be the cure. Right or wrong, it is too late to turn the elephant (or the donkey) around. Apple, Nike and P&G recognize this fact. One has to wonder if the Chamber will accept it and realize that the only way to affect the parade is to get in front of the elephant.