A GreenBiz article asks, “Can a company take on sustainability initiatives — and promote their green credentials — while also lobbying behind the scenes to halt, slow or weaken environmental legislation?” That question is one that the 43 major companies on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) need to answer. NAM, the largest manufacturing association in the U.S., launched on March 28 what it calls a “multi-state, multi-million dollar initiative” to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The campaign started with television and radio ads in Arkansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The television and radio ads are the “first phase of a sustained educational campaign,” according to NAM’s website.
Twenty-three investors representing about $202 billion in assets under management sent a letter to the 43 major U.S. companies asking them to reevaluate their “perceived support” for NAM’s policy on the EPA regulating GHG emissions. “We would like to learn more about how you reconcile the company’s position on climate change and sustainability with NAM’s position.”
The 43 companies include big names such as AT&T, Clorox, Dow Chemical Co., Ford, GE, General Motors Corporation, Intel, Proctor & Gamble, Shell, Toyota, and Verizon, many of whom we’ve praised over the years for their environmental initiatives.
The letter mentions that Dow is a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, and has “established strong climate change emissions goals with measurable baselines and targets.” Dow’s sustainability measures are “at odds,” the letter states, with its support of NAM.
Three reasons why NAM’s member companies should support EPA regulation of GHG emissions are listed in the letter:
- The EPA rules are not overly costly as NAM claims.
- The EPA rules will enhance manufacturers’ competitiveness by encouraging facilities to identify ways to become more efficient – thus reducing costs over their operating lifetimes and ultimately making regulated companies more competitive.
- A growing number of investors are supporting EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Any company supporting NAM’s recent letter to Congress seeking to block EPA’s authority to regulate GHG harms their public image and reputation as well as forward progress on environmental issues,” says Stu Dalheim, director of shareholder advocacy for Calvert Investment Management, Inc., who coordinated the open letter with Walden Asset Management.
“Companies serving on the Board need to evaluate how their internal corporate policies on climate change contradict the policies they support through NAM,” says Timothy Smith, senior vice president, Walden Asset Management. “Serving on the Board of a trade association comes with the responsibility to govern responsibly and hold the association accountable for lobbying that results in environmental harm.”
What PG&E can teach NAM member companies
In 2009, U.S. Chamber of Commerce member companies faced a similar dilemma that NAM member companies now face when the Chamber opposed climate change legislation. As a result of the Chamber’s opposition to climate change legislation, the California utility company, Pacific, Gas & Electric (PG&E), withdrew its membership.
“We decided to take a step back and say at this time, our association with the Chamber was not aligned on such an important issue,” said Melissa Lavinson, PG&E’s director of federal environmental affairs and corporate social responsibility. “We thought we should just part ways at that point and reassess at another time.”