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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak for All Businesses

GreenChamber | Thursday February 17th, 2011 | 4 Comments

By Janet Pomeroy

One of the major themes in President Obama’s State of the Union speech was the need to maintain our economic strength by out-innovating other nations.  “In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives,” he said. “It is how we make our living.” The president put green innovation at the center of a strategy for “winning the future,” and committed to doubling our country’s clean energy production in 25 years.

Leading renewable energy companies, economists, businesses, and environmental groups have said they believe Obama’s vision is practical and attainable, yet the U.S. Chamber of Commerce takes an opposing view. According to a February 2 New York Times article, The US Chamber claims that it is unrealistic and “impossible.” It’s just an example of the Chamber’s latest stance in favor of an old, tired economy.

The U.S Chamber’s opposition to congressional measures addressing climate change led Pacific Gas and Electric, Exelon Corporation, Apple, and other major corporations to withdraw their memberships. Observing that there was “no outlet for changing the policy” on climate change, Nike resigned from the Chamber’s Board of Directors. In 2009, Duke Energy cut contributions to the Chamber because of its efforts to discredit climate science.

Obama’s recent meeting with the U.S. Chamber appeared cordial enough on the surface, but surely he knows that the Chamber does not represent the companies that will carry his vision forward. The U.S. Chamber’s policies not only sabotage environmental protection, but work against the interests of many businesses. Large corporations that have embraced social responsibility are separating themselves from this 100-year-old lobbying group, and are benefiting by making innovation synonymous with environmental protection.

They have also formed their own organizations. Nike, along with corporations such as Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks and Timberland, founded Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP); members now also include The Gap, Target, and eBay. Other national organizations representing the growing number of companies that are both pro-business and pro-clean energy include: the Green Chamber of Commerce, B Lab (certifier of B Corporations), and the American Sustainable Business Council.

Meanwhile, the US Chamber seeks to perpetuate an obsolete, dirty-energy economy that suffocates innovation and alienates its own members.  We have seen livelihoods destroyed by oil spills, lives lost in mining disasters, countries torn apart by war, all as a direct consequence of our dependence on a fossil fuel economy.  If the U.S. Chamber has its way, we will continue down that road and we will continue to lose ground to countries like China in the race to a clean energy market.

To put it in perspective, China is, at this moment, investing billions to become the world’s clean energy superpower.  We cannot sit back and let that happen.

I believe that most businesses realize this. Which is why I urge American businesses to take a stand and support Obama’s clean energy plan. A clean energy future is not just good politics; it’s good for business.  And it’s critical to our survival.


Janet Pomeroy, MBA
President, Green Chamber of Commerce

Janet Pomeroy holds an MBA in Sustainable Business from Dominican University of California’s Green MBA program, and is the President of the Green Chamber of Commerce, based in San Francisco, CA.


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  • Dan Dugal

    For an alternative to the US Chamber, business can look into the American Sustainable Business Council (http://www.asbcouncil.org/).

    I have no affiliation with them, but I attended a public policy breakout session at the State of Green Business Forums in Chicago last week. Richard Eidlin represented them very well and he showed that companies that want to do good have options.

    • http://greenchamberofcommerce.net/ GreenChamber

      The Green Chamber is a proud member of the ASBC, and we participate in their calls on a regular basis. Thank you!

  • http://www.greenbydesign.us Colleen Mahoney

    It is unfortunate that we have an organization that clearly has no vision and no compassion for our planet – but it is most fortunate that we have a wonderful emerging Green Chamber of Commerce to support businesses across the country dedicated to green business principals.

  • Erin

    The plethora of sustainable business groups are doing some good work, but I’d like to hear more about more aggressive work to counter the U.S. Chamber. I’m aware of the American Independent Business Alliance http://amiba.net and New Rules Project http://newrules.org , which are more radical, but small-business oriented.