ASBC and BCL: Empowering businesses to speak up for climate action

American Sustainable Business Council

The American Sustainable Business Council says, “We believe a healthy planet, engaged employees and prosperous consumers are essential for good business, and for a strong society. Government policy needs to change to reflect this triple bottom line.”

By Mary Gable

To quote Margaret Mead, Citizens’ Climate Lobby has never doubted that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. And we often gravitate toward partners who share this sense of dedication and hope.

One of these partners is the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), a policy advocacy group for businesses who believe in building a better world. ASBC represents more than 250,000 businesses of all sizes and across industries. The group supports policy change related not only to climate, but also issues like safer chemicals; clean water; and diversity, equity, and inclusion. They educate business owners on why a sustainable economy is good for business, survey leaders on their positions on pressing issues, and prepare members to share their views with the media and elected officials.

ASBC is a longtime partner and collaborator of Business Climate Leaders (BCL), a CCL action team that engages U.S. businesses in calling for climate action, and specifically for putting a national price on carbon emissions.

“ASBC is a great fit for BCL,” says Harold Hedelman, BCL co-founder and Director of Engagement. “We both believe in the power of uniting the grassroots—the public—and the grasstops—local leaders, including business leaders—to drive social change. ASBC is broad in its advocacy, while BCL has a narrow focus. But our shared philosophy means that our work is complementary.”

David Levine American Sustainable Business Council

David Levine

According to ASBC, businesses can and should fight climate change from within, through actions like buying renewables and making their operations more energy-efficient. But the most important work they can do is raising their voice in support of policies that protect the climate. “Today’s urgent challenges demand that we scale solutions much faster than private industry can do alone,” explains David Levine, ASBC’s President. “If government provides criteria and goal-oriented incentives, the market will respond, and business will create responsible, sustainable growth.” One policy that ASBC recognizes as critical for reducing industry’s contribution to climate change: pricing carbon.

A productive partnership

BCL’s work with ASBC began about five years ago when the two organizations decided to team up on climate advocacy at the local level. Business owners from ASBC took part in CCL’s spring lobbying push, during which chapters organize meetings with their congressional representatives while members are at home in their districts. Volunteers from the two groups teamed up and met with their members of Congress, with ASBC offering valuable perspective on the business benefits of climate action.

Since that first round of meetings, ASBC business owners and staff have joined CCL in lobbying on the Hill and partnered with BCL in organizing and presenting webinars on the business case for carbon pricing.

The two groups ramped up their efforts in 2018. BCL produced a daylong Carbon Tax Forum during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. ASBC was a sponsor of the event, and Hedelman and Levine appeared together on a panel discussion on carbon pricing. They also jointly drafted the Carbon Pricing Principles along with other partners, urging Congress to pass legislation establishing an economy-wide price on carbon emissions.

Now, ASBC is helping get out the word about the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, the first bicameral, bipartisan carbon pricing ever introduced in Congress. Beyond sharing details of the bill with its own members, ASBC is helping build business support in key states where Republicans will play an important role in moving climate legislation through the Senate. These efforts will complement the work that CCL chapters are doing to educate their members of Congress about the bill.

ASBC has also launched a campaign to encourage businesses to support the Green New Deal, the stimulus program aimed at addressing climate change and economic inequality introduced by Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier this year. They created a letter that businesses can sign showing their support, and delivered one version, signed by more than 250 business owners and business organizations representing over 8,000 more companies, to Congress before the Senate voted on the resolution in March.

ASBC continues to collect signatures and will deliver another version of the letter at a future date. “We want to show that the refrain about pro-climate legislation being bad for business just isn’t true,” Levine explains. Businesses of any size and in any industry are invited to sign the letter, whether they are ASBC members or not. They can learn more about the campaign and ASBC’s other work here.

Grassroots vitality, grasstops power

The future is being written as governments and policymakers worldwide determine how to respond to the climate crisis. Businesses have an important role to play in the conversation, as ASBC and BCL both know. And there’s a very real sense that this work is helping shape the debate.

“Ever since the midterms, businesses have been telling us that they believe we’re entering a new chapter of climate politics,” says Hedelman. “More Americans than ever recognize the need for climate action, and we have presidential candidates talking about climate change like never before. And when you start getting specific about solutions, one of the first policies being discussed is a carbon price.”

Groups like ASBC and BCL provide an important bridge between dedicated citizens and businesses with even more resources to influence policy and enact change. As ambitious climate legislation is introduced in Congress, we’re making sure that the business community is prepared—with both a nuanced understanding of solutions and the confidence to show its support.

Mary Gable
Mary Gable is a writer and editor who focuses on sustainability and innovation. She's based in Seattle, but takes her work on the road whenever she can.