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Applauding Enlightened Business Leaders
By Steve Schueth

In the run-up to Copenhagen, we were pleased to see business leaders in the U.S. urge the Obama administration to secure an international deal that would “create the conditions for transformational change… and deliver the economic signals that companies need”[1] to develop a low carbon future.

Just days before President Obama was scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen, some 30 major U.S.-based businesses, including Microsoft, Nike and PG&E, sent a letter to the president calling for strong U.S. commitments to address climate change. 

This letter followed a full page ad that a coalition of business leaders placed in the New York Times a week before that asked the president to “allow us, the United States of America, to serve in modeling the change necessary to protect humanity and our planet.”

Progressive business leaders in the U.S. have also gotten behind We Can Lead, a $1 million television and advertising campaign urging comprehensive energy and climate legislation be enacted by the U.S Congress.

The Copenhagen Climate Summit attracted some 50,000 official attendees, and probably an equal number of unofficial participants, attending hundreds of formal events and many hundreds more informal conversations in hallways and around dinner tables. Unfortunately, according to Joel Makower, “the interests of business seemed ill-represented in the negotiations, despite the fact that in most capitalist economies, companies are responsible for most of the emissions.”

For many, the very modest success in Copenhagen seems a setback and a lost opportunity. But evidence strongly suggests that we can accomplish the task of building a clean, green global economy in the absence of strong political will. The burgeoning cleantech sector was born during a time when political power in the U.S. was heavily invested in the status quo. Energy efficiency has become very big business, and “the shift to renewable energy is occurring at a rate and on a scale that we could not imagine even two years ago,” said Lester R. Brown if the Earth Policy Institute.

Consider what is happening in the heart of oil country, USA. There are over 8,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity in operation in Texas, with another 1,000 megawatts under construction. When brought online, the state will have the equivalent of 50 coal fired power plants producing clean energy—enough to satisfy all of the residential needs of its 24 million citizens.

American businesses are the source of some of the most powerful cultural influence in the world. Business, with the proper guidance and incentives, can change the world for the better.

At First Affirmative, we consider the companies that view global action to combat climate change as not only good for business, but essential for long-term prosperity to be ‘companies of the future.’ We are proud and excited to invest client portfolios in such companies.

Steve Schueth, President

Note: Mention of specific companies or securities in this blog should not be considered a recommendation to either buy or sell that security. For information regarding the suitability of any security for your investment portfolio please contact your financial advisor.

[1] Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change and University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, “The Copenhagen Communique on Climate Change,” 2009.

Posted: December 22, 2009