The business case for climate action — in Philadelphia and beyond
At the national level, and here in Philadelphia, businesses that range from the corner mom-and-pop shops to large corporations are raising the alarm about climate change.
Though it might not be in fashion in the White House to acknowledge the reality of climate change, the same can not be said for the place of concerns about global warming in boardrooms across the U.S.
It might not be the narrative we’re used to hearing, but increasingly the business case for climate action — in the form of carbon emissions regulation, investing in renewable energy sources, adaptation mechanism, and more — is a priority for businesses large and small.
Joseph Dominguez, CEO of ComEd, the public utility company in Northern Illinois, was the subject of the cover story of AL DIA a few weeks ago and the inaugural speaker at the AL DIA Global Speakers series. At his talk on May 15, he devoted the entirety of his speech to breaking down the subject of climate change, and describing how major companies like ComED, a subsidiary of Exelon, are addressing its effects while still working to mitigate it.
“If you believe, as I do, that climate change is real, it’s something that we’re going to have to marshal every resource to tackle, then that’s going to create a lot of job opportunities,” Dominguez told AL DÍA in a one-on-one interview in May.
“It’s important that [companies] like Exelon, PECO, ComEd ensure that those job opportunities and all the good things that spring from this transformation get felt in the places that we need jobs, and we need economic opportunity.”
Exelon is part of the CEO Climate Dialogue, a group of Fortune-500 companies which was recently formed to push for an advance in climate action and regulatory legislation at the federal level.
But it’s not just major corporations who have begun to call for change - or can afford to be environmentally-conscious, according to Anna Shipp, executive director of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN). Independent and small businesses, as the “backbone of the economy,” also have a role to play.
“I think there’s a lot of assumptions that a thriving economy, social equity, and climate resilience can’t go together...that it’s mutually exclusive, and our belief is that it’s not,” said Shipp while describing the organization, founded in 2001.
“We have businesses, hundreds of businesses in our network that are proof of concept, proving everyday the degree to which it is possible to be profitable and take care of people and take care of the planet at the same time,” she continued. “And so we’re really trying to shift the economic ecosystem to one that’s again built on equity, built on resilience, as a way to grow the economy.
And here one of their climate-related objectives is closely aligned with the leadership at the state level (highlighted by Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection in a recent interview with AL DÍA), on what Shipp admitted can seem to be at first a “wonky,” very specific topic, but one which has significant impact in the daily lives of Philadelphians: storm water management.
Shipp said that SBN, at a recent awards ceremony, recognized businesses that were investing in green storm water management technology because it is an important issue in Philadelphia in particular, where many of the neighborhoods that experience localized flooding and the urban heat island effect are “neighborhoods that are disproportionately black and brown communities, disproportionately low-income communities” due to the lack of trees, green spaces, and other amenities that contribute to green infrastructure.
Though small businesses and independent businesses might not have the same clout as, say, large corporations in the fossil fuel industry to be able to influence decision-makers, Shipp said that “the collective power that that community has is really, really incredible, and that’s something that SBN really strives to help with is helping this individual business see the power of their voice as an individual business, but also part of this bigger community that really can’t be ignored if their voices are put together.”
“The business community that believes that a thriving wage is important for the economy, that wage equity is important for the economy, that believes that climate resilience and adaptation is important for the economy, those businesses can and should use their voice at the local level, at the state level, at the national level,” said Shipp.