Why are Companies taking a Myopic View on EPA’s Clean Power Plan?

By Paritosh Kasotia

An article that appeared in The Guardian cites large corporations such as FedEx stating that they don’t have to take a stand on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rules because they are not directed at their industry sector. Another unknown company also stated that “there’s a reluctance if a regulation doesn’t get into your core competency to get into somebody else’s backyard. It’s an unspoken acknowledgment that you stick to your knitting.”

I am baffled by this logic. It’s one thing if you are addressing a topic that is very clear cut and only impacts certain industries but the point of the Clean Power Plan isn’t just to make power companies cleaner but address a bigger cause which is of climate change. These companies need to be reminded that the Clean Power Plan is much more than just a set of regulations imposed at electric power companies. Here’s how it would impact different business industries:

Financial institutions: All financial and investment institutions plan for unknown risks imposed by climate change. As we have seen, climate related events are becoming a recurring phenomenon with massive economic loss. We are witnessing the increased frequency of heavy rainfalls and subsequent flooding, droughts as well as rise in the sea levels. The surest and the cheapest way to hedge against these risks is to mitigate the impact of climate change by supporting policies such as Clean Power Plan which addresses the number one cause of emissions – electricity generation. According to the Final Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), investors and financial institution decisions have a critical influence on how our society responds to climate change. More than anything, these institutions should realize the emerging opportunities in new clean energy markets where they can leverage their capital to build a clean energy economy.

Food and Retail Companies: Food and retail companies such as McDonalds, Ocean Spray and Walmart have a lot to gain from supporting the Clean Power Plan. These companies have substantial environmental and sustainability goals of their own. Walmart, for example, has a goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy. Co-incidentally, one of the building blocks to comply with EPA Clean Power Plan is to invest in renewable energy sources.  Being vocal about its goals and how the Clean Power Plan provides Walmart an opportunity to meet its sustainability goals, the company will strengthen its commitment to sustainability and in turn please its stockholders who are increasingly demanding accountability on environmental and social metrics. Moreover, sustainability goals and actions of these companies by themselves are futile if they are done in a vacuum. For them to realize the impact of their efforts, they need to use their power to get other industries on board that contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportation Companies: These companies are especially vulnerable to the damages caused by flooding, hurricanes, rising sea levels, or other natural disasters. Moreover, the transportation companies are a vital link to our economy. Any impediments in our air, water, or rail infrastructure will have drastic disruptions and negative economic impacts on our other industries such as food and agriculture that are so heavy reliant on the transportation sector.

Climate change is everyone’s business. Companies need to rise about the politics and the rhetoric and support a cause that is more than just a set of regulations directed at a particular industry. Each sector, whether it’s electric, agriculture, transportation, or financial, has a role to play and the clout to impact how we, as a society, respond to the grave challenges of climate change.

So, the big companies out there, don’t be a bystander. Take a stand.


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