Nike Resigns From Board of US Chamber of Commerce, Citing Climate Change Differences

Nike, a global leader in sustainability issues, announced today it was resigning from its position on the US Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors because opposition by the chamber to proposed climate change legislation. Nike will continue to hold membership in the 3-million strong trade association.

This news follows the resignation from the chamber of three utility companies in the past week or so — PG&E, PNM, and Exelon. While those companies have many motives in openly opposing the chamber, including financial motives, Nike would appear to be the first company to take a similar move with no direct financial incentives.

Nike’s move comes on the same day a bill to control carbon emissions is due to be introduced in the Senate.

Walking the Walk

Nike has taken the high ground when it comes to climate change, with its membership in BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy), for instance, so the pressure to make some sort of gesture was higher for the athletic company than for others. Several institutional investors in the company, including Green Century Capital Management, have lobbied (PDF) the company to “just do it” and leave the chamber.

Nike had already expressed its strong disagreement with the chamber over climate change issues earlier this year, and this disagreement was reiterated in today’s announcement:

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…

It is important that US companies be represented by a strong and effective Chamber that reflects the interests of all its members on multiple issues. We believe that on the issue of climate change the Chamber has not represented the diversity of perspective held by the board of directors.

Therefore, we have decided to resign our board of directors position.  We will continue our membership to advocate for climate change legislation inside the committee structure and believe that we can better influence policy by being part of the conversation.  Moving forward we will continue to evaluate our membership.

Full announcement (PDF) from NRDC website.

The Chamber of Commerce tried damage control Tuesday, issuing a statement Tuesday which said in part that the chamber “continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.” The chamber has repeatedly opposed any laws or regulations that would impose any costs, real or perceived, on consumers or businesses.

In Tuesday’s post, 3P wondered if leaving the chamber was the newest eco-fad for environmentally conscious corporations. Given Nike’s leadership position on sustainability issues (partly prompted by a labor practices fiasco in the 1990s), it would appear that the answer may be yes.

Which begs the question: who’s next?

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.