General Motors is the first automaker to sign onto the Climate Declaration, a statement drafted by Ceres and its Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy project. General Motors has dramatically cut energy usage at its facilities and owns two of the world's five largest rooftop solar arrays.
When we think of the companies and organizations concerned with climate change, we don't often think of major automakers. But maybe we should think again.
Ceres is a nonprofit launched in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and it boasts a fairly unique vision. Ceres believes that green, sustainable practices are consistent with good business practices -- in fact, the two are inseparable. Ceres builds coalitions among corporations, investors, and individuals to share that vision with the world.
One of Ceres' biggest projects to date is its Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy group, or BICEP, "an advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation enabling a rapid transition to a low-carbon, 21st century economy – an economy that will create new jobs and stimulate economic growth while stabilizing our planet’s fragile climate."
Together, Ceres and BICEP have drafted the Climate Declaration, a document that urges the U.S. government to take action on climate issues. The reasoning isn't so much that action is needed to avoid looming environmental crises, but that the U.S. can remain an economic and cultural superpower by setting the standards for policies and technologies that address climate change. From the paragraph-long Declaration:
"[J]ust as America rose to the great challenges of the past and came out stronger than ever, we have to confront this challenge, and we have to win. And in doing this right, by saving money when we use less electricity, by driving a more efficient car, by choosing clean energy, by inventing new technologies that other countries buy, and creating jobs here at home, we will maintain our way of life and remain a true superpower in a competitive world."
Which roughly translates as, "We know that most politicians won't be swayed by the thought of doing good simply for the sake of doing good. So, how's about we put a dollar amount on that good?"
Most of the companies that have signed onto the Climate Declaration are the sort you'd expect: Ben & Jerry's, Starbucks, The North Face. But others have spoken up, too -- companies not ordinarily associated with environmental activism, like L'Oreal, Limited Brands, and now, General Motors.
In a press release about the event, though, GM points out that it has a very respectable track record when it comes to eco-friendliness. The automaker has dramatically cut energy usage at its facilities (saving the company $90 million in the process), and it owns two of the five largest rooftop solar arrays on Planet Earth. (There's more about GM's environmental activities here.)
Frankly, we applaud GM's participation in this initiative, though it does raise a few questions:
B. Are documents like this that address the bottom line the only way to get for-profit businesses on the environmental bandwagon, or might some be persuaded simply by the idea of, you know, doing what's morally right?
C. Most importantly: will this document have any effect at all?
Feel free to weigh in on A, B, C, or all of the above in the comments below. And if you'd like to sign the Climate Declaration yourself -- either on behalf of your company or as an individual -- you can do so here.