General Mills, Starbucks, Walmart and other big brands want to stay the course on climate. Here's why.

Tom Murray

Editor’s note: This post was updated on March 16, 2017.

Corporate leadership is driven by long-term economics, not by short-term politics.

This is why 1,000 businesses and investors are calling on President-elect Donald Trump and other United States leaders to “strongly support” the continuation of low-carbon policies and U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement. 

These business leaders – from big brands such as Dupont, General Mills, HP Enterprises, REI, and Unilever – know that the pathway to job creation and economic growth is accelerating efforts to curb climate change. Changing course or our pace, they wrote, “puts American prosperity at risk.”

Sustained private-sector leadership of this kind is critical for building pressure on the Trump administration and Congress, and for keeping the country on track toward a clean energy economy where innovation and technology advancements are king. Such leadership has never been more important.

Businesses want to stay competitive

Corporate America is watching closely as the Trump administration pushes its agenda on energy, trade, infrastructure, tax reform and more.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes understand the importance of regulatory certainty, economic stability, and commitments from our political leaders that the U.S. will remain competitive in an increasingly interconnected world.

Nations today are ramping up investments in clean energy technology and building new partnerships to meet their carbon emission goals. It’s not in America’s interest to fall behind in this race.

None of this is lost on corporate America – nor should it be lost on Trump who prides himself of his business acumen and who campaigned on making American industry stronger.

The sustainability trend is accelerating

Our corporate partners routinely stress the importance of regulatory certainty for business planning, investment decisions and job growth.

I expect to see leading companies and investors continuing to stand up to support bedrock environmental protections critical not just for business, but also for public health and the overall economy. Several recent corporate announcements suggest their engagement is only accelerating.

  • In December, Smithfield Foods became the first major livestock company to announce a greenhouse gas reduction goal throughout its upstream supply chain, from feed grain to packaged bacon. By 2025, the company expects to cut emissions by 4 million metric tons – equivalent to removing 900,000 cars from the road for a year.
  • Pepsi, which pioneered the concept of “performance with purpose” a decade ago, recently renewed its commitment to the philosophy with a new slate of sustainability goals. On the company’s impressive to-do list is a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent across the company’s value chain, including its agricultural supply chain, by 2030.
  • Our long-time partner Walmart doubled down on its commitment to sustainability leadership with a new set of 2025 goals in early November. The retailer committed to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 18 percent, cutting 1 billion tons of emissions from its global supply chain. That’s more than Germany’s annual emissions.
  • Microsoft announced its largest wind power purchase agreement to date with a deal to buy 237 megawatts of capacity from projects in Wyoming and Kansas. As a result, Microsoft’s data centers will get about 44 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and hydropower sources this year, and 50 percent in two years. 

We believe that such business leadership – through science-based reduction targets, investments in renewables and operational and supply chain improvements that slash emissions – will continue to gain traction.

As my friend Andrew Winston pointed out in his recent blog for Harvard Business Review, the economics support it and customers want it. And why sustainable business will move forward no matter what.

We all stand to gain when they do.

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