Donald Trump may think tackling climate change is bad for business. But business? Not so much.
Two of the US’s biggest business leaders, Tesla founder Elon Musk and Disney’s Robert Iger, have quit Trump’s high-powered business advisory panel after the president pressed ahead with plans to pull out of the Paris climate accord.
Trump created his business advisory panel shortly after his election as he sought to show how his administration would revamp the US by “drawing on private sector expertise”.
The departures are a disaster for the president. While Trump has claimed an economic rationale for the US’s exit from the most ambitious climate change agreement in history, big business has cried foul.
To make matters worse Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein (who is not on Trump’s business panel but knows a thing or two about making money) chose Thursday to launch his first tweet in condemnation of the move.
The two defections and Blankfein’s message leave a lot of other people on Trump’s high-powered business council in a very awkward position given their own, and their companies’, views on Paris and climate change.
Here’s a sample of Trump’s business team and the conflicts they now face:
Jamie Dimon – chairman, president, and CEO of JPMorgan Chase
The banking titan is no fan of regulation but even he clearly thinks some is necessary, especially when it comes to the environment. “Some regulations quite clearly create a common good (e.g. clean air and water),” he wrote in his 45-page letter to shareholders this year. Trump in the meantime has been frantically signing executive orders to repeal Obama-era air and water protections.
Trump may have missed Dimon’s buried critique but he won’t have missed Dimon’s signature alongside fellow council members Musk and Disney’s Bob Iger who joined a total of 30 other business leaders in sending a letter to the president that begins: “We are writing to express our strong support for the United States remaining in the Paris climate agreement.”
“Based on our vast experience doing business all over the world, we believe there is strong potential for negative trade implications if the United States exits from the Paris agreement,” they wrote.
Stephen Schwarzman – co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Blackstone
The billionaire founder of investment group Blackstone is literally Trump’s right hand man on the council. He’s a New York player who likes Saudi princes, companies that slash worker benefits and throwing lavish parties that would make an emperor blush so you’d think there would be no tension here.
But Schwarzman too is out of step with Trump and believes climate change is real. His Schwarzman Scholars educational program funds research into the impact of climate change and here’s Blackstone’s vice chairman Byron Wien on climate change in a blog post from last year: “The climate change problem is real, but not immediate and it is hard to get policy makers to focus on it, despite rising temperatures and sea levels … According to some climate experts, in 200 years most major cities will be in danger, but there is not a sense of urgency that will get world leaders to deal with this problem now.”
Indra Nooyi – Chairwoman and CEO of PepsiCo
Pepsi has signed the business world’s own version of the Paris climate agreement. Last year the company’s plans to reduce its emissions were approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, a program backed by the UN and others that is in alignment with the Paris agreement and has approved similar plans by another 43 of the world’s biggest companies.
Mary Barra – chairwoman and CEO of General Motors
Barra normally gets to sit to Trump’s left when his business council meets and that’s clearly where she is in relation to his environmental views. “Environmental stewardship and sustainability are part of our business model and core to our operations,” Barra said in GM’s annual sustainability report last year. The company is aiming for a world of “zero emissions, zero congestion and zero crashes”.
Larry Fink – chairman and CEO of BlackRock
BlackRock, an investment manager that overseas $5tn in assets, has become increasingly vocal about its concerns on climate change. Fink has warned CEOs he is losing patience with those that fail to account for how they will address the cost of climate change, both from new regulation and a changing planet.
Exxon, Occidental Petroleum and PPL, a large utility holding company, have all been forced to be more transparent about the impact of climate change on their businesses after pressure from BlackRock.
Ginni Rometty – chairwoman, president, and CEO of IBM
Rometty’s support of Trump caused consternation at IBM where over 2,300 staff members signed a petition, saying the decision undermined the company’s “core values of diversity, inclusiveness, and ethical business conduct”.
In March, IBM was awarded a 2017 Climate Leadership Award by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the Climate Registry, its fifth such award in six years.
“As IBM stated 10 years ago, ‘Climate change is one of the most critical global environmental challenges facing the planet.’ That is even truer today,” Wayne Balta, vice-president for corporate environmental affairs and product safety, wrote in a blog post.
Doug McMillon – president and CEO of Walmart Stores
Walmart is another signatory to the Science Based Targets Initiative and McMillon has set ambitious targets for reducing the retailer’s emissions. Working with suppliers it aims to reduce emissions by one gigaton (a billion metric tons) by 2030, “equivalent to taking more than 211m passenger vehicles off of US roads and highways for a year”, McMillon announced last year. Trump probably thinks a gigaton is a new truck. He likes trucks.