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Is the U.S. Chamber Going the Way of the Dinosaurs?

Nobody likes it when the company you keep exhibits behavior that conflicts with your beliefs and values. It is an awkward moment at best. In that moment, we may feel strongly enough to confront and correct the misdeeds that assaulted our sensibility. Or not. This is precisely what is happening now within the membership of the US Chamber of Commerce. Many of its members who overwhelmingly proclaim to support a more sustainable, just, and equitable society are uncomfortable, at best, with the Chamber’s active lobbying against the policy changes needed to realize the stated goals and values of those members.

Dead End SignThe investments in the reconciliation package that is before Congress are precisely what Chamber members such as Apple, AT&T, Disney, FedEx, Ford, Microsoft, United, and many others have been calling for. They represent a necessary lifeline to avert the worst impacts of climate change, which is already disrupting lives around the globe, to say nothing of our economy and ability to do business. The Build Back Better package also provides critically needed help for their workers, our fellow Americans, to avoid the devastating impacts of no national childcare policy or paid family and medical leave program. All of these are foundational to the fact that any company’s most important asset is its workforce.

However, the US Chamber is pulling out all the stops, including launching a big ad campaign to undermine this mission-critical and overdue change in public policy that will avert the worst impacts of climate change. Climate change is already recognized as a real and present threat from Main Street to Wall Street and is damaging the business interests of the very members it purports to serve. Ironically, the Chamber’s campaign targets members of Congress previously supported by the group.

Simply put, now is the time to stop protecting the interests of the fossil fuel industry members of the US Chamber at the expense of all other businesses and of our planet. Let’s finally drain the swamp.

This is not the first time the leadership of a trade organization has been completely out of touch with its members. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the dominant voice of the food industry for decades since it was founded in the 1940s, experienced an eerily similar collapse beginning in the early 2010s as its members faced an inflection point when the organization’s leadership was deaf to the changing context of the food industry. By fighting proposals from its own members to require information about added sugar or genetically-modified foods on food labels, GMA showed its resistance to change. By 2018, with its membership ranks decimated, the organization effectively folded up operations and rebranded itself. The same may well be the future fate of the US Chamber.

Dinosaur at the United Nations

Courtesy of UNDP

The dinosaurs could not anticipate their end coming, however, the leadership of the US Chamber can and must. Simply put, now is the time to stop protecting the interests of the fossil fuel industry members of the US Chamber at the expense of all other businesses and of our planet. Let’s finally drain the swamp.

Jeffrey Hollender is the CEO and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council. He also co-founded and served as CEO of Seventh Generation, is the author of seven books, and adjunct professor of sustainability and social entrepreneurship at the Stern Business School, New York University.
MaryAnne Howland is Chair of the American Sustainable Business Council and Founder and President, Ibis Communications, where she has led a team of professionals in branding and marketing solutions directed toward a diverse and inclusive audience. She founded the Global Diversity Leadership Exchange, which is a member of the United ... Read more

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