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Here’s what businesspeople have to say to Congress about Build Back Better

Climate change is battering America’s businesses — and with it, our entire economy.

Last year, weather and climate disasters cost the United States $99 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. International nonprofit CDP estimates climate change will cost businesses worldwide $1.3 trillion in the next five years. And in a survey of 750 business executives by Deloitte earlier this year, 82 percent said they are concerned or very concerned about climate change and the impacts to their companies.

Adam Schultz/Joe Biden via Flickr

As Congress resumes debate over the Build Back Better Act and other climate policies in the infrastructure and reconciliation bills, business leaders want action. Over the past several weeks, more than 1,000 executives from businesses across the country and throughout every sector of the economy wrote Congress in support of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better agenda and for swift passage of the infrastructure and reconciliation bills.

Big Washington, DC lobby groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have vowed to kill the reconciliation bill and its climate provisions, just to preserve corporate tax breaks. But across America, everyday businesspeople realize our country needs to invest in clean energy and climate resilience to combat further damage to our economy and stay competitive internationally.

The Chamber and NAM don’t speak for them. They know through the Build Back Better legislation we can create millions of jobs, drive billions in investments and open new opportunities for businesses and workers alike.

Gilbert Campbell, CEO Volt Energy Utility

Gilbert Campbell is founder and CEO of Volt Energy Utility, a minority-owned and operated clean energy company located in Washington D.C.

“Right now, we have the chance of a lifetime to expand clean energy and the jobs, savings and other economic benefits that come with it to every part of America — including to communities of color and businesses run by people of color,” Campbell said. “Climate change is showing us every day we can’t wait any longer. We need Congress to pass this legislation — and pass it now.”

On the other side of the continent, Tofurky president and CEO Jamie Athos and his 220 employees just experienced climate change up close and personal. Record-shattering temperatures forced their Hood River, Ore.-based company to temporarily shut down production lines. Wildfires forced it to reroute trucks and change distribution routes.

Normal summer temperatures in Oregon are in low 80s. This July, it hit 115 in Portland and other parts of Oregon. As Athos told me, the HVAC systems in his 40-year-old company’s buildings just weren’t designed for that kind of heat.

“Climate change is impacting business operations — from food processing to distribution to agriculture,” he said. “And it’s only going to get worse if Congress doesn’t pass the Build Back Better Act and other bold climate policies.”

As E2 pointed out in a letter to Congress signed by more than 400 members and supporters, our economy cannot afford for lawmakers to under-respond to the climate crisis that is costing businesses and our economy more with each passing year. We need to fund the climate provisions of the reconciliation and infrastructure bills at the highest levels possible to help bolster our economy today and create new opportunities for American businesses tomorrow.

In the Finger Lakes region of New York, Suzanne Hunt’s family farm and winery were nearly flooded by Tropical Storm Fred in August. The region got seven inches of rain in one night, damaging homes, roads and gas lines, washing out a bridge that connects the two sides of her farm and jeopardizing the grapes at her family’s Hunt Country Vineyards. Like other businesspeople, Hunt understands the need to address climate change outweighs corporate taxes.

Suzanne Hunt, Hunt Country Vineyards

“The Build Back Better plan — including the elements that will ensure that all corporations pay fair tax rates — is long overdue,” she said. “To change the curve on climate emissions, we need significant federal investment in climate solutions for the public good.”

Like the agriculture industry, the hospitality industry is impacted by climate change in myriad ways — by everything from property damage from hurricanes and flooding to lost tourism business because of wildfires and bad air quality.

“Businesses like ours are doing what we can to address climate change and sustainability, but businesses can only do so much,” said Corinne Hanson, corporate director of sustainability and impact at SH Hotels and Resorts. “We need our lawmakers to pass bold and big climate legislation — and do it now. The world can’t wait any longer.”

There’s another reason businesses support the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan and the climate and clean energy investments in the reconciliation and infrastructure bills. It’s because they know such investments will help spur growth and innovation that will keep America competitive internationally.

“The transition to clean energy is happening globally,” said AJ Patton, CEO and founder of 546 Capital, an Illinois investment fund that focuses on community solar and sustainable housing. “The question before Congress right now is — will U.S. businesses be prepared for the transition or will we be left behind? Will we train up a workforce to participate or miss out on millions of new jobs? And will we ensure that all communities benefit from the jobs, cost savings and other benefits of a cleaner, more resilient economy?”

Eric Berman, E8

For investor Eric Berman, a board member at E8, a Seattle-based angel investment group, Build Back Better is a good investment in America’s future.

“There’s no better investment Congress can make than in clean energy and climate solutions,” Berman said. “The climate provisions of the Build Back Better agenda would help ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in the 21st century economy while creating millions of additional good jobs in the fast-growing clean energy sector.”



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Bob Keefe

Bob Keefe

Executive director, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)