Last week, over 150 business leaders from major American companies came to the capital to tell Congress to “pass comprehensive climate change and energy policy legislation this year.” One of the corporate titans who participated in the We Can Lead effort was Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder, executive chairman, and “chief inspired protagonist” of Seventh Generation, the leading producer of green household products. In an exclusive interview with the Wonk Room, Hollender had strong words for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, explaining that it made sense for prominent companies like Nike and Apple to cut ties to the chamber over its opposition to climate action:
I think the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t act in in the best interest of business. They represent what was historically best for business. They represent exactly what’s the polar opposite of the future of business. The chamber is a voice of the energy industry, of the coal industry. As you’ve seen in the last couple of days, Nike gives up its position on the board, Apple resigns — businesses will increasingly abandon the chamber because they are just so wrong on this issue. Not that they’re not wrong on most issues, but they’re more wrong on this issue than they usually are.
Hollender further described membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a “reputational risk“:
These companies, like Nike and Apple, are taking a leadership position with their own energy efficiency initiatives. They don’t want to see a playing field where companies who abuse and pollute get benefits, and companies that are more efficient don’t. So, part of it is making sure the playing field is leveled. But I also think it’s undeniably important that the consumers of these companies would be embarrassed if they knew that Nike was sitting on the board of the chamber. I mean, I think it’s a reputational risk to be associated with the chamber, given their behavior.
Pausing in the Russell Senate building between meetings with senators from some of the 20 states in which Seventh Generation has manufacturing facilities, Hollender explained why capitalists like himself support the efforts of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to craft legislation with a cap-and-trade and energy efficiency provisions to cut global warming pollution and promote clean energy investment. Responding to critics who claim that advocates of a green economy are “socialists” who want to “kill capitalism,” he said, “the fact that we should be responsible for the effect we have on other people, anyone who tells you that’s anti-capitalist is crazy.”
Hollender concluded that Congress should pass clean energy and climate legislation immediately, because it’s “right for business, right for the economy, right for jobs, and good for the future of the country.”