Business Leaders Brief Senior Administration Officials on Sustainability and Climate Change

While world leaders are meeting in Paris to negotiate a global strategy to take action on climate change, 50 business leaders from across the country met at the White House today to brief senior Administration officials on how climate change affects local businesses.

At the briefing organized by the White House Business Council and Business Forward, the discussion focused on President Obama’s agenda to curb climate change, including the Clean Power Plan, and ways the government can help spur investments that will bring new energy products to market. Together, the group also spoke about strategies to help their states develop implementation plans to meet the standards outlined in the Clean Power Plan.

Many of the business leaders recounted how severe weather and climate change have hurt their companies. Several of the business executives in attendance lead companies that produce tools that help other businesses become more sustainable. Others are involved in research efforts to develop solutions that will help reduce carbon emissions and conserve energy.

The meeting itself was closed to press, but participants may discuss their perspectives with media. If you would like to speak with a local business leader about the event, please contact Rachel Harvey Katz at RHarvey@BusinessFWD.org or 202-470-1318. Below is a selection of quotes from some of the business leaders who participated today:

California
“I’m proud to be one of many veterans who have returned from war with a commitment to securing our nation’s energy future and combating the impacts of climate change,” said Kevin Johnson, Managing Director, Canadian Solar (USA) Inc. in San Ramon, Calif. “The need to secure our nation’s energy future is a national security issue of the highest magnitude and will require bold and decisive action. I’m hopeful that our world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference will establish clear strategies for curbing climate change by rapidly increasing the deployment of clean energy technologies around the world.”

Colorado
“Without question, there is great financial and business opportunity in addressing the challenges of climate change. If you are an entrepreneur and an advocate for the free market, this is a time to embrace capitalism to support our planet, instead of defending old business models that are literally killing our planet,” said William Browning, CEO of Rebound Solutions in Denver. “From our company’s perspective, every social problem can be resolved and climate change is no exception. There is a tangible benefit to tackling this problem through free enterprise principles.”

“Pos-En is dedicated to delivering secure energy solutions to minimize the impacts of climate change and the related severe weather patterns. We see no threat more daunting to our country and our way of life than the effects of climate change,” said Daniel Gregory, CEO of Pos-En in Fort Collins, Colo.

Florida
“Severe weather in Florida affects the real estate market tremendously. Climate change has been making this problem worse, with storms causing property damage and rising sea levels eroding beaches,” said Eric Rollings, a realtor at uOwn Real Estate in Orlando. “Everyone who owns or rents property has something at stake. It’s time for us to all come together and start dealing with climate change.”

Illinois
“Restaurants consume 228 percent more electricity than any other building per square foot, so there’s significant potential to becoming more energy efficient. At my LEED-certified Denny’s location, we have saved $20,000 in utility costs per year and within three years we broke even on the upfront cost above what it would have cost for a standard build-out,” said Joey Terrell, President of RTE 66 Corporation–Denny’s of Joliet, Ill. “We show off our LEED plaque proudly and we have customers who come in just for that reason. This is the way of the future—becoming more energy efficient and saving money at the same time.”

Maryland
“The amplification of uncertainty in any form is never good for business. Extreme weather picks winners and losers regardless of operating efficiency,” said Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc. in Baltimore. “Our attempts to mitigate the severity of these circumstances, for us and our customers, expose us to burdensome costs, which in the long run could impact our company’s growth and the stability of the world economy as a whole.”

Minnesota
“We are firm believers that the pursuit of sustainability should not come at the expense of business profit or end user experience,” said Deepinder Singh, CEO of 75F from Burnsville Minn. “We are proud to say that the 75F technology delivers comfort and savings to our customers while saving energy and therefore lowering carbon footprint. The spirit of innovation is to solve all of these challenges in tandem and to work together both on the policies and practices that make business sense.”

North Carolina
“Businesses across North Carolina are dealing with challenges brought on by severe weather and climate change,” said Montinique Cager, Director of Operations for the Winston Salem Black Chamber of Commerce and CEO of The Cager Group consulting firm. “It is critical that the United States lead the global effort to curb climate change—otherwise our environment won’t be the only thing that’s in danger, our economy will suffer too.”

“In the kitchen, I see how quickly climate change and severe weather are affecting my business every day,” said Pam Cager, the Vice President of the Winston Salem Black Chamber of Commerce and Owner and Operator of For All Occasions, LLC in Winston Salem, N.C. “Key food products that used to be easy to find aren’t growing as readily in the area. This is causing serious changes to our menus and our food costs. I was glad to share this experience at the White House and learn more about policies will help curb climate change.”

Pennsylvania
“Environmental sustainability is a core value of our company. Our products are made from up-cycled agricultural by-products. Plus our delivery trucks and manufacturing equipment run on bio-diesel, we use recycled pallets for shipping, and we recycle materials received with our raw ingredients,” said Mark Highland, Founder and President of Organic Mechanics Soil Company in West Chester, Pa. “Customers are increasingly seeking sustainable solutions for improving their gardens and these practices also save our company money. We’ve incorporated biochar into our product line to offer gardeners a way to build long term soil carbon storage while increasing yield and plant health. Being environmentally sustainable is best for improving soil quality and best for our bottom line.”

“It’s time for the United States to step up and lead the world in a positive direction in taking action on climate change,” said Melissa Lee, Founder & CEO of The GREEN Program in Philadelphia. “The GREEN Program provides student leaders from around the globe with hands-on exposure to sustainable solutions. We bring in-classroom knowledge to life by exposing students who are passionate about sustainable development to the issues and solutions in some of the world’s top countries leading these changes. I hope that UN Climate Change Conference in Paris is productive and sets strong standards for countries around the world.”

About Business Forward
With the help of more than 50 of the world’s most respected companies, Business Forward is making it easier for tens of thousands of business leaders from across America to advise Washington on how to create jobs and accelerate our economy. Business Forward is active in more than 100 cities and works with more than 450 senior Administration officials, Members of Congress, governors, and mayors.

To date, the organization has also brought more than 3,000 business leaders to the White House to brief the President’s economic advisors. Business leaders who have participated in these briefings have seen their suggestions implemented in the Affordable Care Act, the Jobs Act, three trade agreements, and every one of the President’s budgets. Many have also shared their recommendations with their representatives in Congress and through op-eds and interviews with local media. Ninety-eight out of 100 business leaders who have participated in a Business Forward briefing would be interested in participating in another one. For more information please visit www.BusinessFWD.org.