Pluralistic: 19 Aug 2022 Business Roundtable vs Humanity

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The Earth seen from space, wreathed in flames. Atop the Earth dances a jaunty 'Rich Uncle Pennybags' from Monopoly; he has removed his face, revealing it to be a mask, and his head is a grinning skull.

The Business Roundtable's climate plan was killed by its arch-rival, the Business Roundtable (permalink)

Three years ago to the day, the Business Roundtable unveiled its "Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation" – a commitment by its 200 member-CEOs and companies to protect the environment. Then they spent three years and millions of dollars lobbying against that goal.

Writing in The Guardian, Adam Lowenstein rounds up the Business Roundtable's deep-pocketed, highly effective lobbying campaign, which has crushed numerous climate initiatives in the US, possibly dooming the human race to extinction.

The Roundtable bills itself as "an association of CEOs of leading US companies working to promote a thriving economy & expanded opportunity for all Americans through sound public policy." Its members include the CEOs of the country's most politically connected corporations, including Apple, Pepsi, Walmart and Google – the most powerful people in the nation.

But while the Roundtable continues to trumpet its commitment to addressing the climate emergency, it has mobilized millions of dollars to neutralize our best hopes of dealing with that emergency. The Roundtable's initiatives include spending millions lobbying against Build Back Better and its carbon reduction/clean energy provisions.

The Roundtable has gone to war against a SEC rule requiring publicly listed companies to disclose their carbon emissions and risks from climate change. Instead, the Roundtable prefers "voluntary" disclosures that allow companies to omit emissions and risks in their supply chains. The Roundtable has met with the SEC three times to oppose this rule, and Roundtable chairman Mary Barra (CEO of GM) personally met with SEC chair Gary Gensler.

In the first half of 2022, the Roundtable's lobbying budget was $9.1m, much of which went to opposing a climate disclosure rule. The Roundtable says that measuring supply chain emissions is too burdensome – the fact that the majority of emissions are in the supply chain is just a coincidence.

Meanwhile, the Roundtable continues to insist that "we have to move now," and that the best way to address the climate emergency is through "market-based" solutions where investors choose "green" investments based on reliable information about companies' contribution to imminent human extinction.

The Roundtable insists that "voluntary disclosures" will provide sufficiently accurate information to allow investors to direct their money away from companies that will murder them and their children by rendering the planet unfit for human habitation. Every other stakeholder – "many investors, analysts, academics, voters and experts, even companies themselves" – disagrees vehemently.

The calls for mandatory disclosure aren't emanating from campus Maoists and Greta Thunberg's child army – they're coming from giant, institutional investors, like this group of fund managers who direct $5t in capital:

The Roundtable's most powerful members, like Apple CEO Tim Cook and Blackrock CEO Larry Fink, have also called for mandatory disclosure. I'm sure they're frustrated that the organization won't listen to them – it's just that they're not frustrated enough to pull their funding from the Roundtable. After all, mostly the Roundtable lobbies to be sure they don't pay taxes and can abuse their workers with impunity – weighed against those advantages, the Roundtable's commitment to wiping out the human species is but a trifle.

It's not just that the Roundtable's members won't hold the organization to its environmental commitments – the Roundtable also won't hold the members to account on those commitments. Companies that signed the 2019 declaration were convicted of more environmental infractions and emitted more carbon that similar firms that didn't sign:

And since 2019, the signatories to the environmental pledge were offered many chances to "formalize the pledge in corporate governance," and virtually every time this happened, those signatories chose not to make good on their promises:

The Roundtable's opposition to climate action continues to this day. The org came out hard against the Inflation Reduction Act, which has billions in clean energy incentives – they objected to the 15% minimum corporate tax that will offset those billions in the federal budget:

To be fair to them, we don't need to tax corporations – or anyone else – to pay for climate action. The US government is constrained by resources (which things are for sale in US dollars), not money (which it can create by typing into a spreadsheet).

The point of taxing companies is to constrain what their shareholders can buy – because those purchases might consume resources needed for the climate emergency; and, importantly, to prevent them from spending profits to corrupt the government:

Meanwhile, the CEOs who keep the Roundtable afloat keep declaring that time is short, action must be taken, and no price is too high for action.

And again, to be fair, there is no course of action so radical that these corporations and CEOs won't promise to take it – provided they never, ever have to lift a finger to follow through on that promise.

Hey look at this (permalink)

This day in history (permalink)

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Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Adam Lowenstein (

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