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May 14th, 2020 by Tina Casey
Some of the top names in the US business sector have been organizing for federal climate action since 2015, when they rallied in support of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Well, the Clean Power Plan never went into effect and President* Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, but those pesky business people are going at it harder and stronger than ever before. That includes top shelf jeweler Tiffany & Co., which is pretty interesting considering the company’s White House connection.
$11.5 Trillion Gets Behind Climate Action
It seems like only yesterday when solar panels and wind turbines were strictly for the DIY off-grid set. That was actually a long time ago. With the exception of certain fossil fuel stakeholders, pretty much anyone with a financial stake in the world of businesses recognizes that the global economy has to decarbonize, and fast.
To get things moving along more quickly, more than 330 US companies with a collective market valuation of almost $11.5 trillion organized a day of action on May 13, in which they jointly — and remotely — called on Congress to get more serious about climate action as part of a COVID-19 economic recovery plan.
As one indication of how much has changed in just 12 months, last year Ceres held a similar event that drew just 75 participants.
Standing Up For A Green New Deal After COVID-19
One main focus of the action day was carbon pricing, but the broader goal is clearly a riff on the now-familiar Green New Deal.
“Participating companies and investors will urge the U.S. House and Senate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support a climate-smart economic recovery from COVID-19,” Ceres explained in a press statement. “Collectively, they will demonstrate the continued importance of investment in resilient infrastructure and the need to put Americans back to work with durable, clean energy jobs.”
Among the 330 participants are scores of smaller brands focusing on the sustainable lifestyle market such as Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s. What makes the Green New Deal-ish commitment stand out, though, is the collective range of the group.
Among the top companies signing on to the day of action were Adobe, Capital One, Dow, DSM North America, eBay, Genentech, General Mills, Ingersoll Rand, Levi Strauss, LinkedIn, Mars, Microsoft, Nike, PepsiCo, Salesforce, Schneider Electric, and Unilever, among others, many of which are also large-scale renewable energy buyers.
Tiffany & Co. Wants Climate Action, Stat
One of the more interesting names to pop up on the list is Tiffany & Co. After all, it’s not every day that you find the most iconic name in the luxury accessories market drumming up votes for clean power and green jobs on Capitol Hill.
What makes this even more interesting is the long history of Tiffany and presidential gift-giving among other White House business. That goes right on up to the present day, in connection with sale of the flagship store’s air rights in Manhattan.
Nevertheless, for Tiffany followers it’s no surprise to see the company participate in a climate action rager, virtual or not.
In 2017, for example, Tiffany turned heads for schooling President* Trump over the Paris Agreement on social media. The company also published the same climate message in a full page ad in the New York Times, and publicly reaffirmed its commitment to the Agreement after Trump pulled out.
Tiffany also entered the climate action arena long before President Obama dreamed up the Clean Power Plan. The company’s sustainability website lists a 2006 solar installation among its early decarbonization efforts, with others to follow.
In 2009 Tiffany was also among the first leading companies to cut ties with the US Chamber of Commerce over the group’s climate policy, soon to be followed out the door by Microsoft among other notables.
The company’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Anisa Kamadoli Costa, explained Tiffany’s position in a May 13 press statement for Ceres.
“Tiffany & Co. has long been committed to operating in a manner that respects both people and the planet,” she said. “Businesses must continue to lead in this way but cannot tackle climate change alone. We need smart public policies to advance our economy while protecting society’s most vulnerable citizens and facilitating a net-zero emissions future.”
Is Anybody Listening?
With US Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) holding a tight grip on the legislative process, the LEAD on Climate 2020 day of action was more an exercise in raising public awareness than rustling up enough votes to get anything done of substance.
Fair enough. If the basic idea is to mainstream the Green New Deal (or something like it), the participation of Tiffany and all those other top companies will help slide the Green New Deal from a socialist fantasy into a capitalist workhorse.
As if on cue, on May 13 presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden teamed up with former rival Bernie Sanders to unify the Democratic party in advance of the November election. The unity effort includes setting up a task force on climate change co-chaired by noted Green New Deal advocate and US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and former US Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry.
It will be interesting to see if — and if so, how — the Democratic climate change task force will interact with CEOs at Tiffany and other leading clean power advocates in the business sector, so stay tuned for more on that.
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Image: In the years following the 2008 market crash, the US solar industry created 1 in 78 new jobs (via US Department of Energy).