Working With Business Climate Leaders

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Demonstrating that businesses and job creators support federal action addressing climate change is some of the most important support CCL volunteers can provide our members of Congress. This training explores the history and purpose of the Business Climate Leaders and how to best work with them in your own community.

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History of Business Climate Leaders

Business Climate Leaders is organized into sectors and chapters and provides ongoing support for both areas of focus. Sector teams are organized nationally around industry sectors and chapter teams work at the chapter level. 

Business Climate Leaders is also an action team and works with many of the other action teams like the Health Action Team, Team O.I.L., and the Outdoor Industry Action Team to build relationships with business leaders in those sectors.  The mission of Business Climate Leaders lies in providing support and guidance for CCL volunteers who are engaging businesses in effective advocacy. As part of the grasstops engagement lever of political will, Business Climate Leaders helps CCL volunteers understand how outreach to the business community is unique and how to develop a long term relationship with the local and national business community to look at all the effective policies in need of support to create a livable world.

Business Climate Leaders started in 2015 when a group of CCL members worked to put together a panel of business leaders and NGOs for the California Regional Conference. Bill Shireman, the founder of Future 500, was invited and shared at the event that he had a secret strategy for Citizens’ Climate Lobby: companies in the retail sector will do quite well because the dividend will put cash in the pockets of their customers. As a result, he recommended to start approaching those companies that are going to benefit and get them behind the concept of a carbon fee and dividend policy.  That summer, at the annual CCL conference in Washington, DC, Dr. James Hansen shared his powerful quote about the power of engaging the grasstops: 

“It's the captains of industry that can get us through the climate crisis. I've met with them, they have children and grandchildren, and they want to be part of the solution.”

Dr. Hansen emphasized that politicians listen to the concerns of business. Businesses pay taxes, provide a lot of jobs, contribute to political campaigns, and also because many of them also lobby Congress. But politicians also listen to businesses because business people are powerful problem solvers. It's not easy to make money in business and it requires solving problems constantly and effectively. So when a business leader or a business lobbyist meets with a member of Congress he or she will know that the company has thought long and hard about the issue being discussed. As a result, finding ways locally to enlist business leaders to join us sharing with Congress the importance of enacting an effective price on carbon is a critical goal. The good news is that there are growing numbers of companies across many different sectors of the economy that are ready to engage with Congress and climate.

Why Business Leaders Advocate For Climate Policy

What are the reasons for engaging business leaders to join in our advocacy? Many businesses are motivated because they are conscious of the changing climate and the instability that it can cause their business environment. They see that as a real threat to their the stability and their ongoing ability to grow their businesses.

Consider the list on Business Climate Leader’s website of companies that work with business climate leaders and have endorsed a carbon fee and dividend policy. 

You'll see that there's a lot of businesses like ski resorts and winter industry associations. Climate change is an existential threat to those businesses: no snow, no skiing, so that's why they team up with us. They have a good reason to, because they're looking for anything they can do to keep their businesses alive for the long-term, so they’re willing to join with us and meet with members of Congress whenever we offer them that opportunity. 

Many businesses also see opportunities in the development of clean energy. For example, some businesses see opportunities in enhancing their competitive position by being the first to be to embrace moving to renewable energy. It helps cut their costs and they can differentiate themselves from their competitors. They also see it as an opportunity to enhance their reputation, which can attract new employees, engage their shareholders, and keep at bay pressure from outside groups wanting them to act on climate. 

How Do I Approach Business Leaders?

Even though business leaders can be very powerful voices in engaging with members of Congress, it can also be intimidating to begin reaching out to the business sector. It’s important to remember there's a lot of similarities in engaging with businesses and engaging with our members of Congress. 

The long term goal in both areas is developing and working on relationships of trust, where  we are seen as a trusted adviser working with on common goals instead of as an adversarial organization. As a result, we work very hard to support CCL groups engaging with their businesses wherever they are willing to start with us.

With businesses, their constituents are their shareholders and their employees and other stakeholders. This can make it more challenging initially to start working on relationships with businesses. We often do it through connections. For example, consider who you know that has either worked for or knows people that work for a key organization you’d like to reach out to.

Do Your Homework

Just like working with a member of Congress, when meeting with a company, you really need to do your homework to understand what their business priorities are. 

  • Where have they already been successful? Have they done any advocacy for clean energy endorsed different climate initiatives?
  • Make sure to acknowledge that through appreciation and respect.
  • Try to understand where they are and make our asks consistent with what they're willing to do.

When you get in front of a company, be prepared and willing to listen to creative ideas that they're coming up with to address climate change. Realize they really are problem solvers and they listen to our solutions too. While some might not yet be convinced of immediately supporting a national solution like the Energy Innovation Act - take advantage of their need and desire to face the problems that climate change is creating as well as their interests to talk to members of Congress about it. 

How Sector Teams Are Organized

Business Climate Leader Sector Teams are an effective way to engage with a growing variety of large companies. There are a lot of synergies when you talk with companies that are in the same industry and organizing by sector has been very effective. Additionally, being  able to engage with business associations that are focused on a particular industry sector can be very helpful in building broader coalitions to advocate for effective legislation like the Energy Innovation Act.  

Sector teams are led by a sector team leader who is knowledgeable about that sector work on recruiting and engaging individual companies to advocate with members of Congress. There are between twelve or thirteen sector teams that focus on individual economic sectors and a steering committee that meets every week to discuss updates as well as ongoing strategy and goals.  The team members typically are assigned to work or volunteer to work on specific companies or more than one company depending upon each person’s bandwidth.

An example of sector teams at work comes from the technology sector team. This sector has been developing relationships with all of the major big-name tech companies: Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Tesla, Google, Cisco, HP, and so forth. 

After the Climate Leadership Council introduced their Carbon Dividends Plan with eleven founding companies advocate endorsing the plan the technology sector team decided to follow a similar pathway and focus on the technology sectors to get them to come together and advocate as a group for carbon fee and dividend.  They developed a relationship with leading industry groups in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and put together a meeting with 14 high tech companies coming to the table. 

The group discussed about carbon pricing and whether or not each of these companies would be willing to collectively advocate for carbon pricing. They appreciated being invited to come together with a peer group to talk about these issues as a group to consider collective action was a way for them to potentially have a bigger impact and to learn what their peers were thinking about it as well. Since then, they’ve had ongoing meetings and this is a great model of the connecting or the partnering with industry groups and then bringing together companies within a sector.

Word of mouth is critical in helping build a network with new people that might have recently just heard about CCL and provide important connections and breakthroughs with outreach to key companies. If you have business experience in a particular sector or if you have contacts within companies, Business Climate Leaders would be happy to work with you and plug you into virtual teams across the country. 

Business Climate Leader Chapter Teams

If your chapter is ready and wants to have some business engagement going on in your area the first thing to establish is your local team and determining what kind of projects you want to do. 

  • Are you interested seeing if you can get local business leaders to come to a meeting you’re having with your member of Congress?
  • Or do you want to put together a business roundtable? 

Business Climate Leaders provides support for bringing business leaders to in-district meetings, connecting you with local branches of national companies, and supporting business roundtables where local businesses can discuss their needs and concerns around climate change.

Sample Collaboration


Business Climate Leaders has a relationship with Clif Bar and Clif Bar was opening  a new baking facility in Twin Falls, Idaho. Business Climate Leaders also has a relationship with Trinity Health, one of the major hospital chains is in the Bois, Idaho area. As a result, Business Climate Leaders worked with CCL Boise to identify several major companies in their area that would be willing to be anchor tenants for a larger business engagement campaign. CCL Boise formed a chapter team and generated a campaign to get local businesses to sign on to an influencer endorsement letter asking their member of Congress to support effective climate policy.  Following in the footsteps of what CCL Advisory Board member Jay Butera did in Florida, they crafted a letter that reflected the climate concerns of local businesses and made some specific requests in the letter for a face-to-face meeting in the district. 

Adding businesses to in-district lobbying is similar to bringing a very high-powered new member of your chapter to a meeting with your member of Congress. Before you finalize any plans it it’s key to understand what their goals will be for the meeting and also to establish that they won’t disrupt or say anything adverse about the Energy Innovation Act. To make sure about their messaging, you will want to engage them in planning for the meeting with the member of Congress. You could ask them to tell their climate story, what risks and opportunities do they see to their business from climate disruption, what are they doing to address those risks and take advantage of the opportunities, and finally what would they like Congress to do.

Once you make contact, how do you keep track of your relationship over time? When do you decide you've got enough letters or signatures to take it to the member of Congress? Business Climate Leaders also provides tools to organize and track your chapter business team meeting agendas, action items, and the engagement status of the companies that you're working with.  The tools help make it easier for chapters to manage their project and Business Climate Leaders also offers mentoring for chapter teams in their work. 

Length
Press play to start the video (38m 20s)
https://vimeo.com/album/5481171
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(From beginning)

What is Business Climate Leaders?
(3:27)

Engaging Businesses vs. Congress
(12:53)

Chapter and Sector Teams
(17:29)

Get Involved
(23:40)

Instructor(s)

Harold Hedelman

Steve Hams

Bruce Hagen

Downloads

Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.

Download the video.
Download the Presentation
CCU: BCL Introduction 101CCU: BCL Introduction 10123306 KB
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (38m 20s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(From beginning)

What is Business Climate Leaders?
(3:27)

Engaging Businesses vs. Congress
(12:53)

Chapter and Sector Teams
(17:29)

Get Involved
(23:40)

Instructor(s)

Harold Hedelman

Steve Hams

Bruce Hagen

Downloads

Click here to download or find the episode on CCL’s iTunes channel.

 

Go Deeper

Get involved! Sign up to join the Business Climate Leaders Action Team.

Visit the public Business Climate Leaders website

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Training
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Grasstops Outreach
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