Top companies urge Congress to go green
Starbucks, others to lobby for climate legislation
A group of companies including Starbucks, Nike and Sun Microsystems has banded together to urge Congress to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and promote investment in renewable energy.
The companies on Wednesday announced a partnership with Boston-based Ceres, a national network of environmental advocates and investors, which will lobby on energy policy.
The new partnership, called Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), is made up of consumer brands Starbucks, Levi Strauss, Nike, Sun Microsystems and the Timberland Co.
The group asks that polluters be required to pay for the freedom to pollute and wants Congress to stimulate renewable energy development and "green" job growth.
"These companies have a clear message for next year's Congress: move quickly on climate change and create a prosperous green economy and green jobs at the same time," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, in a statement.
The point of getting together, they say, is to add a new voice to an energy debate that has been dominated by energy companies and manufacturers.
For its part, Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. says that climate change is a threat because the company relies on coffee crops. Changing weather patterns and added storms affect regions where coffee is grown.
"At our core, we are an agricultural company," said Ben Packard, Starbucks' vice president of global responsibility. "It's really time for a new voice. It's time for a voice represented by a larger percentage of consumers."
Starbucks' interest in climate change is not new, and the company has worked on various related issues for years. In 2005, for example, Starbucks began taking out full-page advertisements in The New York Times to explain the effects of climate change.
Starbucks also buys renewable energy credits from the World Resources Institute. The new partnership plays into Starbucks' "shared planet" initiative announced in October.
The skeptic may wonder whether it matters that companies such as Nike and Starbucks want to stop global warming.
"Absolutely," said Ross Macfarlane, senior adviser for business partnerships at Seattle-based Climate Solutions, a nonprofit. "We're only going to effect the kind of change that's needed if you can harness the power of key corporate leadership of our capitalist system to really move this whole agenda down the road."
The national conversation about climate change has "been dominated by the fossil fuel industries, which include the extraction side, oil and coal companies, and power-generation companies," Macfarlane said.
But the number of voices is growing, Macfarlane said. President-elect Barack Obama has declared that he intends to start a "new chapter in American leadership on climate change."
A day before the announcement, another coalition, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, also urged Congress and the incoming Obama administration to work on climate protection legislation. That partnership includes 26 corporations and six nonprofit organizations, including BP America, ConocoPhillips, DuPont, Ford and the Natural Resources Defense Council.