What do Apple, Nike & PG&E have in common?  They all recently staged rare corporate defections from the US Chamber of Commerce.

Below is an excerpt from the PG&E press release

SAN FRANCISCO -(Dow Jones)- PG&E Corp. (PCG) said Tuesday it is leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over objections to what its top executive called the chamber’s “extreme position on climate change.”

And here is an excerpt from Nike’s release (side note: Nike didn’t fully leave, but decided to step down from the board)

Nike believes US businesses must advocate for aggressive climate change legislation and that the United States needs to move rapidly into a sustainable economy to remain competitive and ensure continued economic growth.

As we’ve stated, we fundamentally disagree with the US Chamber of Commerce on the issue of climate change and their recent action challenging the EPA is inconsistent with our view that climate change is an issue in need of urgent action.

The Daily Kos weighed in on the defectors saying that they were bold and innovative…willing to carve out a new divide between the more innovative companies and the older, hard-line climate laggards.

This crucial announcement from PG&E is the beginning of a massive reframing, away from jobs vs. polar bears, and focusing on the growing divide within the business community: innovative and forward-looking companies that “get it” vs. old line extraction companies that cling to the past.

The NYT points out that this crack in the (normally) homogeneous US business community is a new signal that the fight over climate legislation is changing.  This time around we won’t see a repeat of the time-worn face off between greens and big business, a fight in which environmentalists are often outgunned in money and influence.

So Who’s Next?

Which company will drop out of this powerful, 3 Million strong US Chamber next?  And, will these new companies start a new type of business federation to compete with the US Chamber juggernaut?

If Apple wanted to lead something like this I bet there would be followers…

Copenhagen’s Coming Soon

Beyond the recent Chamber defectors, encouragingly, there are a lot of big, innovative companies that are pushing government to do more on climate change.

In a dramatic shift since the Kyoto treaty was signed in 1997, 500 of the world’s leading global businesses recently joined together to endorse the Copenhagen Communiqué on Climate Change by signing a two page manifesto.

The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders’ Group on Climate Change recently pulled together some of the world’s biggest companies for the Communiqué. The two page document is being billed as a strong call from the international business community for a stronger international framework ahead of the UN negotiations on climate change this December in Copenhagen.

The Communiqué is very encouraging and leadership from global companies on climate change is also very encouraging…who would have thought–5 or 10 years ago–that big, global companies could pull together voluntarily to call for a tougher stance on Climate Change?

We need powerful global business leaders to stand up and say that they are ready to take on one of the  defining issues of our generation.

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