Changing the Game on Climate Advocacy: BICEP 10 Years Strong

Apr 22, 2019 5:30 PM ET
Campaign: We Are Still In

Changing the game on climate advocacy: BICEP 10 years strong

Political participation is hard. In a democratic society, it is also a right that must be preserved. Ten years ago, Nike let Ceres know that when it came to climate action, they wanted their voices to be heard on Capitol Hill. At the time, their voice as an energy purchaser and a consumer brand was not deemed central to the climate debate. Unlike in the case of traditional energy providers, it was thought companies like Nike, Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks, Sun Microsystems and Timberland did not have "skin" in the game. 

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

As lawmakers and the national media quickly realized, these companies had particularly thick "skin" in the game. They understood the economic risk as they had cotton, coffee, cocoa and complex supply chains at risk—all of which they knew would be impacted by a changing climate. They understood the risk to people, as they had farmers and communities and, like many of us, children and grandchildren in the game. The tired notion that the energy providers should be the only corporate voice at the negotiating table died one day in 2009, when five courageous companies stood up to declare with Ceres, "American Businesses Agree: The Climate is Right for Action."  

And with that, the game changed.

Nike came up with the name: Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, otherwise known as the Ceres BICEP Network. The five stand-out companies grew their ranks to a critical mass so that in 2010, when Proposition 23 threatened to kill California's historic cap and trade bill, BICEP companies were able to weigh in to make their opposition clear. The strength of their voices in support of climate action neutralized the California Chamber of Commerce and BICEP scored its first win. 

That was just the beginning of BICEP’s work to mobilize businesses and make the business case for climate legislation. In 2012, when the auto companies agreed to tighten federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for vehicles, BICEP companies stood up in support. Then, in 2013, as President Obama set forth his Climate Action Plan, Ceres brought more than 300 companies to the table under a compelling banner: "Tackling Climate Change is one of the Greatest Economic Opportunities of the 21st Century. . . and simply the right thing to do." 

President Obama would repeat that compelling phrase, while naming the names of major U.S. companies that had stood up for climate action. Lawmakers and the media were beginning to understand that energy-consuming companies indeed had “skin in the game” and were now a powerful force in the climate debate. 

The Ceres BICEP Network went on to grow in size and influence to build bipartisan support for countless measures, one of which was the Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first standard to reduce the carbon footprint of the electric power sector. Introduced in 2014, the policy provided an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate that they were seeking what some called "legislative guardrails" when it came to climate change. BICEP companies made clear to lawmakers that they wanted policy certainty to create a predictable, stable businesses environment. It wasn’t just that acting on climate was the right thing to do, but also that companies recognized the enormous risks of climate change—as well as the opportunities that could come from addressing the climate challenge. Together, BICEP companies were making it clear that they wanted serious action, and they were calling on leaders in Congress and in statehouses around the country to tackle climate change. 

In 2014, BICEP companies also saw the need to make their voices heard on state policy as a way to maintain momentum on climate action and continue developing markets for clean energy. Since then, the energetic advocacy of BICEP companies has played a crucial role in a number of key state policy wins on climate and clean energy, catalyzing local investment, job creation and economic growth in states from California to Massachusetts, and from Michigan to North Carolina.

The Ceres BICEP Network also came to play a role on the world stage. In 2015, BICEP companies helped mobilize dozens of other companies from various sectors to call for a strong deal at COP 21, playing a critical role in the landmark adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement. When the historic accord came under threat from the Trump administration in 2017, and the climate debate had reached a new low, BICEP companies declared “We Are Still In” and committed to achieving the goals of the agreement. Since that historic moment, thousands of companies have joined the ranks of We Are Still In and are taking action to ensure the U.S. remains a global leader on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

During the past 10 years, the Ceres BICEP Network has raised the bar for business leadership on climate and clean energy advocacy. Working on both sides of the aisle on a host of legislative and regulatory issues—including carbon pricing, the phase down of hydrofluorocarbons, stronger clean energy standards and more—the Ceres BICEP Network has consistently called for what can only be referred to as “science-based policy” because when it comes to climate change the science is clear, and the time to act is now.

Today, we thank those five founding companies for their vision. We are grateful for the dozens of other companies that have since joined the Ceres BICEP Network and the several hundred others who have stood with us in key states, at the COPs, on the air, on the ground and in the offices of those charged with preserving both our planet and our economy. For ten years, BICEP companies have been at the helm, preserving our democracy and putting their political muscle behind tackling the greatest challenge of our time.

Feeling inspired? Join us this spring in Washington DC to call for meaningful price on carbon. Along with our partners, the Ceres BICEP Network is about to converge on Capitol Hill for full day of advocacy: LEAD on Carbon Pricing. We urge companies to bring their stories and their voices to Washington and to educate lawmakers on the need for comprehensive climate action.

Game on.

This blog is one in a series celebrating Ceres' 30th anniversary and showcasing how our Investor Network, Company Network and Policy Network members work to help Get US There: to a just and sustainable global economy.