Jim Boyle, Alliance President and CEO of Sustainability Roundtable

As the EPA prepares, after years of delay, to issue regulations on carbon pollution required by the Supreme Court to enforce the Clean Air Act, the need for business leadership in advocating for effective action on climate change has never been greater. The hour is late, and the challenge daunting. The Alliance has been educating business leaders, investors, and policy-makers from its first days about the business imperative for private and public action to slow climate change.

Those who would preserve the economically and environmentally unsustainable status quo continue to assert that they represent the interests of job preservation and creation. Meanwhile, many or most of the U.S. companies rapidly adding high wage jobs with great futures have long ago recognized that our current resource consumption patterns and levels of carbon pollution cannot continue. The relatively young and extensively-educated CEO’s and investors who lead America’s fasting growing companies recognize that climate change poses an existential threat to our economy and delay in responding to it only increases the costs of our inevitable response – even as the need to respond to it at all is denied by a wealthy, self-interested minority.

Alliance Leaders who do business around the world know that an overwhelming majority of relevant scientists and university-educated business leaders recognize the remarkable threat of man-made climate change. And many Alliance Leaders are acting accordingly as they participate in an inflecting revolution in renewable energy and/or create new products and services for the booming global markets shaped by governments, businesses and consumers striving to become more sustainable.

Jim Boyle, President of the Alliance and CEO & Founder of Sustainability Roundtable Inc., notes, “Pivoting to create a sustainable economy in time to avoid catastrophic climate consequences is both morally necessary and the greatest business opportunity in history. Creating this change may seem impossible but markets are terrific at effecting incredible change. If markets price in the cost of carbon pollution, markets will effect needed change.”

acccenture CEO StudyGlobal business leadership supports this perspective, as is well documented. In 2013, Accenture’s  UN Global Compact  CEO Study on Sustainability, a survey of more than 1,000 global CEO’s across 27 industries, confirmed for a third year that 93% of CEO’s recognized that “sustainability” issues would be key to their future business success. Furthermore, it found that in 2013, 63% believed related issues “would transform their industry within five years.” Finally, in 2013 only 33% believed business “was doing enough.”

Consequently, it is not surprising that the top book in sustainable business in 2014 is The Big Pivot by business strategist Andrew Winston who advises Bank of America, Boeing, Kimberly-Clark, Unilever and many others. Winston pulls no punches, urging executives to “Become A Lobbyist” and cogently detailing why business leaders must step up.

Meanwile, Congress has hobbled itself by tying its shoelaces together, so President Obama has reached a logical conclusion: climate change isn’t waiting for Congress, and neither should we. But his plan to turn our country away from fossil fuels by acting through regulation and executive order is already raising howls of protest from the traditional energy industry.

Not surprisingly, the dismay echoes in the halls of a dysfunctional Congress, from those who court that industry’s support. According to likely presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the EPA’s proposed limitations on carbon emissions from coal plants will “devastate” the economy.

The Alliance will be in Washington on Wednesday, May 21, to visit the halls of Congress and and bring a rational, science-based business perspective to bear on the economic impact of climate change, among other topics. The good news is: not only does addressing climate change improve prospects for business in general, but there are historic business opportunities created by this challenge.  Of the CEO’s surveyed by Accenture, 80% viewed sustainability as a route to competitive advantage in their industry.

The Alliance is a rare cross-sector U.S. CEO community speaking out publicly, but is very far from the only business voice for reason. CERES, an outstanding organization and network of investors, companies and public interest groups, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.  CERES can take credit for measurable progress and visionary leadership in accelerating and expanding the adoption of sustainable business practices to build a healthy global economy.  At this moment, CERES is making progress with two relevant, complimentary agenda-setting initiatives.

CERES’s BICEP project (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy policy) has enlisted over 750 businesses in less than one year to sign its Climate Declaration, and has brought those business representatives directly to Washington to advocate for sensible policies. The Declaration’s signers include Acer, Adidas, AMDAkamai, Aveda, Eastern BankeBay, EMC, GAP, Inc., GM, IkeaIntel, L’Oreal, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike, Owens Corning, Levi Strauss, Starbucks, Stonyfield Organic, Symantec, Timberland, Unilever, and hundreds more.

Investing in clean energy can be a pathway to profit and prosperity, boosting global economic growth and creating jobs while providing competitive returns to investors and strengthening companies’ bottom lines.
-CERES Clean Trillion Fact Sheet

The Clean Trillion effort promoted by CERES seeks to mobilize the trillion dollars of investment per year in clean energy which will be required to limit global warming to 2% over the next thirty-six years.  This investment represents the genuine business opportunity.

The Alliance salutes CERES and its quarter-century record of achievement in mobilizing business resources for climate change action.  Our Alliance and many Alliance Leaders hope to be helpful to Ceres in these needed and strategic initiatives going forward.