Helping high-tech titans shape federal climate policy
By Pam Shaouy
The high-tech industry is a powerful driver of economic growth, providing innovations for businesses across the retail, healthcare, banking and other sectors. The high-tech industry also has the potential to be a powerful driver for climate solutions.
That’s why members of Business Climate Leaders were excited to meet with more than a dozen titans of the high-tech industry recently, including Apple, Microsoft and HP Inc. The participants explored carbon pricing policies. Even more exciting—they discussed the potential for joint advocacy for carbon pricing legislation.
Many businesses want market-friendly climate action
Business Climate Leaders (BCL) is a Citizens’ Climate Lobby action team. BCL engages large businesses at a sector and national level to get collective endorsements and lobbying support for carbon pricing legislation. BCL also helps CCL chapters with outreach to local small and mid-sized businesses.
“Companies worry about climate change. They know it will destabilize the economic environment and disrupt supply chains,” explained Steve Hams, BCL Engagement Director and co-lead for CCL’s Silicon Valley North chapter. “Businesses thrive on stability,” he continued. “They want to understand what the future holds so they can plan with confidence. And a predictable, steadily rising price on carbon is climate policy that fills that need.”
A big “ask” gets a big “yes”
With business momentum for climate action growing, Hams knew that the collective voice of high-tech leaders would have big impact on Congress. To convene those high-tech titans, BCL’s Technology Sector team joined forces with Mike Mielke, Senior Vice President of Energy and Environment at Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG).
“The partnership with SVLG was critical,” Hams said. “They’re the leading technology industry group in Silicon Valley. Most of the companies we invited are members. Their involvement added significant legitimacy in the eyes of participants.”
Getting commitments from such high-profile leaders seemed daunting. The BCL team began by leveraging existing relationships with Salesforce, HP, Inc., HP Enterprise, and Logitech. They all wanted a seat at the table.
“About that time, Microsoft agreed to participate,” Hams recalled. “That was a big breakthrough. At that point, we had commitments from six or seven companies and things tangibly changed. Suddenly, companies didn’t want to be left out.”
Another challenge was bringing busy executives from different companies together at the same place at the same time. Hams had an ideal location in mind, one he thought was just wishful thinking. But he asked anyway—and to everyone’s delight, Microsoft said “yes” and hosted the convening on its northern California campus in Silicon Valley.
“Whatever outreach you’re doing, leverage existing relationships. Relationships are key. And just ask for whatever help you need. People really want to help you succeed,” Hams advised.
The BCL team’s efforts finally led to an inspiring meeting on October 18, 2017, with sustainability and government relations leaders from Apple, Microsoft, HP Inc., Cisco, eBay, Oracle, Flex, Tesla, Facebook, Equinix, VMware, Logitech and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
Each participant shared his or her company’s impressive actions to date regarding sustainability, climate, clean energy and priorities for future action. The companies saw the transition to a clean energy economy as a great opportunity to innovate, and internally, as an opportunity to reduce operational costs and stabilize energy portfolios.
Next, the group had an interactive, in-depth discussion about the legislative landscape and different carbon pricing policies. They shared insights and raised key questions, particularly about CCL’s Carbon Fee and Dividend (CF&D) solution and how it compares with other carbon fee proposals.
Hams revealed, “After the meeting, one participant told me his CEO already decided to publicly endorse CF&D. We hope the leadership of this visionary company will encourage other companies to follow suit.”
Lastly, the group explored joint advocacy alternatives and agreed upon next steps to organize collective efforts. The group identified three key steps required for their companies to participate in collective advocacy:
- Develop and present a clear and compelling joint advocacy position.
- Demonstrate internally why advocacy would be good for the business and its reputation.
- Convince company leaders to designate this as an “actionable priority.”
“There was a clear sense in the room that people were quite encouraged by the prospect of joining forces with others to leverage and amplify their political power,” said Karl Danz, BCL Tech Sector Team Member and CCL liaison to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
Technology innovation helped make America one of the greatest nations on Earth. Together, these high-tech titans can influence federal climate policy and help make America a leader in solving climate change. “Business people are powerful problem solvers,” Hams noted. “Legislators realize that high-tech is a leading-edge industry that drives economic growth and job creation. The concerns of the high-tech industry have significant impact with Congress.” The group will meet again in the first quarter of 2018 to further that impact.
In the meantime, the BCL and SVLG co-organizers will continue to pursue pathways for successful joint advocacy. And the high-tech participants will hold internal discussions with their respective company’s leaders to build momentum. Stay tuned for more progress!
Make it your business to know BCL
Harold Hedelman, BCL co-founder and Engagement Director, says BCL will continue to engage influential business leaders in climate advocacy. “Convenings like this are the most highly leveraged kind of grasstops outreach,” he stated, “and we’re working to replicate them in other sectors.”
Business Climate Leaders can help your CCL chapter with outreach to local small and mid-sized businesses, which often have personal relationships and influence with members of Congress. Visit them on CCL Community today!