Bravo Apple: company slams lobby group over climate change

Latest high profile departure highlights split in Corporate America

Feature story - 7 October, 2009
Apple has stormed out of the biggest lobby group in the United States. At issue is the US Chamber of Commerce's use of funds to oppose climate change legislation. Apple has done the right thing, and IBM and Microsoft should think different too.

Apple makes a stand for climate. Who will join them?

It started as a murmuring of discontent within the Chamber over its lobbying against  US climate legislation. It has rapidly gathered pace over the last few weeks.

Nike and Johnson & Johnson publicly stated their opposition to the Chamber's stance earlier this year. The energy company PG&E left, closely followed by Excelon. 

But Apple took the most radical step so far, announcing on Monday it was leaving immediately because it did not support the Chamber's position on Climate.

Who will be next?

Many companies with high-profile climate positions must be shifting a little uneasily in the boardroom right now. Staying silent on this issue is definitely not showing the leadership Apple and others have shown by speaking out.

Our Cool IT Challenge specifically calls on the IT industry leaders to show real climate leadership. Microsoft and IBM sit on the Chamber board. What's more, both have a financial interest in tough laws on emissions: they sell technologies and software which would be needed to cut emissions.

Now is the time for IBM and Microsoft to speak out against the position of the Chamber -- or do what Apple did, and leave.

Decisive moment

Now you might ask why is this a big deal? Many members of the Chamber have at least in words expressed support for legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet they pay dues to the Chamber that uses this money to lobby for exactly the opposite. It's not a small amount either -- the Chamber spent US$488 million between 1998 to 2007 on lobbying.

We strongly object to the Chamber's recent comments opposing the EPA's effort to limit greenhouse gases... Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the Chamber at odds with us in this effort... we have decided to end our membership immediately.

Catherine A. Novelli, vice president of worldwide government affairs at Apple

That kind of money buys a lot of influence in Washington's corridors of power. The Chamber hasn't been shy about its position either. In August it stated it wanted to put the science of climate change on trial. 

Yesterday the Chamber questioned Steve Jobs' personal judgement in deciding to leave. Rather than lecturing Steve on innovation, the Chamber should be focussing the innovation needed to reduce emissions and the jobs this will create.

In the growing public spat between Apple and the Chamber we are definitely cheering for Steve. But he could do with some more heavyweight support.

Who's next

So which other IT executives are going to match Apple's bold move? The stakes have never been higher for the climate. Apple's move will throw an uncomfortable spotlight on any company that stays on in the Chamber but doesn't act to change its policies.

The science says we need deep cuts in emissions and that means significant reductions in US emissions and a strong global deal in Copenhagen in December. The most progressive businesses know emissions cuts are inevitable and are gearing up to help lead the global economy to a prosperous, low-carbon future. The Chamber's current position represents the voices of the past that got us into the climate crisis. It is time the biggest US companies stepped up to consign this position to  the dustbin of history, where it belongs.

More on this story on our blog

Take action

Sign our petition to Google, IBM and Microsoft to call out the US Chamber of Commerce for its opposition to climate change legislation, or follow Apple's lead and quit the lobby group altogether.


The bottom line is: we can't stop runaway climate change without you. Whatever you can give today will help us ensure there's a decent planet left for us all tomorrow.