Business Leaders on Climate Change Action


To: Interested Parties
From: Rachel Harvey Katz
Subject: Business Leaders Focused on Climate Change Action
As world leaders finalize negotiations at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris, business leaders in the United States, particularly those from small and medium-sized companies, have discussed how climate change and severe weather are affecting their companies.

Many business leaders have experienced losses due to severe weather affecting their supply chains and customer traffic. Some called for American leadership in the global effort to develop a strategy to curb climate change. Others argued that the United States must set strong clean energy standards and invest in clean energy technologies to reduce carbon pollution.

While they support a wide range of solutions to curb climate change, most agree that inaction is not an option.

This memo outlines recent business activity related to climate change, including:
     >     Business Forward's White House Business Council briefing on climate change
     >     Business Forward Foundation research on how climate change and severe weather are affecting the restaurant, manufacturing, and auto industries
     >     Business leader statements on climate change

If you would like to speak with business leaders about how climate change or severe weather are affecting their companies, please contact Rachel Harvey Katz at or 202-470-1318.

More than 40 business leaders from across the country met at the White House on December 9, 2015, to brief senior Administration officials on how climate change affects local businesses. At the briefing organized by the White House Business Council and Business Forward, the discussion focused on President Obama's agenda to curb climate change, including the Clean Power Plan, and ways the government can help spur investments that will bring new energy products to market.

A Business Forward Foundation study released in November examined the cost of climate change – and the efforts to curb it – on the restaurant industry and found that the increase in electricity costs, caused by the EPA's Clean Power Plan standards, would add only one cent to the cost of a $20 restaurant meal. The report features commentary from prominent chefs and restaurant industry executives. Chef Marc Murphy and Business Forward President Jim Doyle headlined an event releasing the report in New York with the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and 30 local business leaders.

A second study evaluating the manufacturing industry found the increase in electricity costs caused by the EPA's Clean Power Plan standards would add three cents to the cost of a $100 manufactured product. Advancements in manufacturers' supply chains that have made them highly specialized, fast moving, and global have also made them highly interdependent and vulnerable to costly disruptions caused by severe weather and climate change.

A third study updated previous research and focused on the auto industry. It found severe weather can cost an auto assembly plant more in 30 minutes than EPA standards could cost it over an entire year, according to a report released by Business Forward Foundation. The EPA's Clean Power Plan standards are projected to increase automakers electricity costs by approximately 3 percent, or about $3.50 per vehicle.

Below is a selection of quotes from Business Forward's nationwide network of business leaders, many of whom have participated in various Business Forward briefings on climate change.


"I run an insurance company. Frequent losses due to the increase in erratic weather events have caused property losses to escalate for the reinsurance industry across the world. These rate increases ultimately reach our customers, not to mention ourselves. It is one more way that consumers have to pay a carbon tax, whether or not there is an actual carbon tax that is more fairly and equitably paid," said Kevin Smith, Owner, Smith Agency of Helena, Inc. in Helena, Ark.

"Climate change creates uncertainty in my forward planning for growing organic produce. Incorporating crop irrigation is essential for a short-term fix. Monsoon rainfall is so much more difficult to mitigate. Our challenge is to brainstorm workarounds and get them in place," said Jeanmarie Zirger, Owner, Second Chances in Mena, Ark.


"You can't have a great Mexican restaurant without an awesome margarita and that means lots of fresh squeezed lime juice. But it's been harder and harder to find reliable, affordable limes over the past few years. We've been in this business a long time and it's been really alarming for the supply chain to become so unreliable lately. I hope we can reduce carbon pollution and curb severe weather so my grandchildren can have fresh squeezed lime juice in their margaritas—when they're old enough to drink, of course!" said Mary Sue Milliken, co-chef and owner, Border Grill Restaurants & Truck in Los Angeles.

"I'm proud to be one of many veterans who have returned from war with a commitment to securing our nation's energy future and combating the impacts of climate change," said Kevin Johnson, Managing Director, Canadian Solar (USA) Inc. in San Ramon, Calif. "The need to secure our nation's energy future is a national security issue of the highest magnitude and will require bold and decisive action. I'm hopeful that our world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference will establish clear strategies for curbing climate change by rapidly increasing the deployment of clean energy technologies around the world."

"Qualcomm supports the adoption of an ambitious global climate agreement that sets the stage for innovation to address the serious global challenge posed by climate change. Finding a solution will require collaboration from stakeholders across the public and private sectors, and we are proud to join many others from the business community to say the time to transition to a low-carbon economy is now," said Molly Gavin, Vice President of Government Affairs and Sustainability, Qualcomm Incorporated in San Diego.

"Data center cooling costs and staff retention in Southern California after a decade of drought, are two areas that effected our firm. To-date, the increased Opex costs as a result of climate change have been manageable through increasing revenue streams as the economy recovers. However, our firm is concerned about future. NanoTect believes with a National Climate Agenda enacted by the President, addressing increased renewable energy projects of meaningful scale, enhanced office energy efficiency, enhanced water management, and a significant reduction of carbon based fuels, are important legs of a national program forming a sustainable national climate process," said Douglas Williams Ph.D., CTO, NanoTect Inc., in San Diego.

"I worry that extreme weather, like California's drought, may become the new normal," said Patrick Mulvaney, chef and proprietor, Mulvaney's B&L in Sacramento, Calif. "Our cherry and apricot seasons were early and short this year. We used to think about how to use the produce coming in.  Now, I have to make sure it is coming in at all."

"The smallest of the small businesses are most adversely affected by external forces like climate change. The uncertainty of energy prices and environmental disaster costs small businesses disproportionately. A clean energy economy is coming and the sooner we get there, the better for small businesses," said Heidi Pickman, Communications Director, CAMEO, San Francisco.

"Climate change is a systemic risk that can affect the economy dramatically. There are unknown risks associated with climate change which must be incorporated into business and economic forecasts broadly," said Gregory Wendt, Partner and Co-Founder, Living Economy Advisors in Los Angeles.


"Without question, there is great financial and business opportunity in addressing the challenges of climate change. If you are an entrepreneur and an advocate for the free market, this is a time to embrace capitalism to support our planet, instead of defending old business models that are literally killing our planet," said William Browning, CEO of Rebound Solutions in Denver. "From our company's perspective, every social problem can be resolved and climate change is no exception. There is a tangible benefit to tackling this problem through free enterprise principles."

"Pos-En is dedicated to delivering secure energy solutions to minimize the impacts of climate change and the related severe weather patterns. We see no threat more daunting to our country and our way of life than the effects of climate change," said Daniel Gregory, CEO of Pos-En in Fort Collins, Colo.

"As an attorney in energy and environment, my work for 15 years has increasingly reflected clients' goals and activities revolving around climate change, its challenges and especially opportunities for new technologies.  But as businesses and governments implement climate action plans and enable clean technologies, they all rely on strong national and international climate action frameworks taking effect.  Without global action, individual actions may be useless, one-off gestures and new clean technologies won't succeed commercially.  That's why an effective Paris climate accord is essential," said Jack Paterson, Attorney, JA Paterson LLC in Denver.

"Climate change has brought about an awareness of the importance of energy efficiency to the homeowner," said Andrew Wildenberg, President of e3 Power in Denver.

"I work in system strategic planning for the Federal Aviation Administration.  Severe weather events cost our customers and the flying public both time and money," said Shawn Larimer, Traffic Management Coordinator, Federal Aviation Administration in Loveland, Colo.

District of Columbia

"The timing of this White House briefing is critical. We are days away from one of the most crucial legislative phases affecting the solar industry – to include the solar Investment Tax Credit in the year-end Tax Extenders Bill. I've spent many hours, including back-to-back visits to the Hill last week, explaining the importance of the tax extension and I will continue to fight for this extension for as long as necessary. But, I can't do it alone – nor can the solar industry or the President." said Tony Clifford, CEO, Standard Solar in Washington, D.C. "It's time to put politics aside and join together – both non-traditional and traditional solar allies and bring this solar victory home."

"Congress should listen to business and support U.S. negotiations for a strong deal in Paris. Small business owners are very concerned that climate change will hurt their operations. Nearly one in five say it has already affected them, according to national, scientific polling we released last year," said Richard Eidlin, Vice President of Policy for the American Sustainable Business Council in Washington, D.C., which has a membership network spanning more than 200,000 businesses in the U.S. "That's why 64 percent of small business owners want the government to regulate emissions from power plants, as the Clean Power Plan would do."

"At Cork, we aim to provide the best wines from smaller producers who are using sustainable and organic practices.  Lately, it's been challenging to get the quantities that we need and have typically had in the past because severe changes in the weather have had an often devastating impact on wine grape crops, their production levels and quality. Rain, hail and severe heat have cut production and limited distribution affecting not only our ability to get these great wines but also the livelihood of many small farmers who grow the grapes," said Khalid Pitts, owner of Cork Wine Bar and Cork Market and Tasting Room in Washington, D.C. "The consequences of climate change aren't far into the future—we're seeing them right here, right now."


"Severe weather in Florida affects the real estate market tremendously. Climate change has been making this problem worse, with storms causing property damage and rising sea levels eroding beaches," said Eric Rollings, a realtor at uOwn Real Estate in Orlando. "Everyone who owns or rents property has something at stake. It's time for us to all come together and start dealing with climate change."

"Having been in the renewable energy industry since 1975, our company has witnessed the sinusoidal wave of legislative policy over the decades and the impact, both positive and negative, it has had on the industry. When the federal incentives were removed in 1985, a robust industry that boasted over 350 technology innovators and manufacturers representing 10's of thousands of jobs, was reduced to just 9 companies by 1986. Many of the innovations and infrastructure deployed from the tax payer funded incentives were lost during the intervening decades. From our informed perspective, we cannot repeat the mistakes from our last renewable renaissance again, it is time that we as a country realize the need to evolve our energy infrastructure and demonstrate the economic vitality that will result from a sustainable long term commitment to clean, renewable energy," said Andrew East, Executive Vice President of Alternate Energy Technologies in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

"Island nation-states stand to lose the most with climate change, not only commercially, but in terms of bare survival. Personally, the Caribbean islands account for most of our supply chain and logistics clientele, which means we have a vested interest in maintaining the environmental security of these islands. Miami-Dade County as a U.S. geographical trade hub is independently in danger of worsening hurricane and flooding. The United States needs very strong environmental regulations and more sustainability in our overall consumption patterns to ensure business continuity," said Astrid F. Kowlessar, Director of Vezta Triumph Ltd. in Miami.

"The business landscape has forever changed. Fossil fuel based power is obsolete and, like in other countries, is already costing more than renewable forms of energy to produce. Those that do not convert to products that either reduce consumption or produce or store energy will be left behind. Decentralized power and grid defection will be the next great disrupters, meaning profit for some and pain for others. Business that choose to ignore the renewable and clean economy products will do so at their peril," said Sean Cochrane, President and Founder, SuperGreen Solutions in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"Independent sales representatives of Avon Products have personal contact with our customers in many ways. We travel so weather conditions have a great impact on our business. We are proud to offer employment and training to anyone who shows a desire to work and learn the business. We set up our businesses at conventions, state fairs, hometown markets and the like. Hurricanes and bad weather can impact our customer business, orders and shipments for days," said Deb Thorogood, Independent Sales Representative with Avon Products, Inc. in Jupiter, Fla.

"We have high-end clients for weddings, and the big day has to be perfect in a dry way.  Severe weather will put catering to a halt," said Roslyn Clark, Chairman, Mother Dunn Catering in Lake Mary, Fla.


"Climate change coupled with the horrific contaminates are affecting the food supply, water supply and air. How can we as business owners or even workers face the 21st century with an unbalanced eco-system that is a threat to the human existence? We can't look the other way or shut the sun with our thumb; the palpable evidence is overwhelming, it's time to say enough and establish corrective measures," said Vicente Vazquez, Zero Sum Zero Business Intelligence, Urbandale, Iowa.


"Restaurants consume 228 percent more electricity than any other building per square foot, so there's significant potential to becoming more energy efficient. At my LEED-certified Denny's location, we have saved $20,000 in utility costs per year and within three years we broke even on the upfront cost above what it would have cost for a standard build-out," said Joey Terrell, President of RTE 66 Corporation--Denny's of Joliet, Ill. "We show off our LEED plaque proudly and we have customers who come in just for that reason. This is the way of the future—becoming more energy efficient and saving money at the same time."

"The increasingly erratic weather patterns have led to shipping and receiving delays that have impacted our business and many others who operate on tight timelines. These incidents along with lengthened dry spells, which lead to organic milk shortages, have affected Lifeway and others in our industry. The time to address climate change is now, for the sake of our consumers, our partners and our planet," said Julie Smolyansky, President and CEO, Lifeway Foods in Chicago.


"As a risk analyst, I'm aware of the challenges that severe weather pose to my community and the world. My pre-startup consultant firm is not an exception to being exposed to the effects of climate change, because its main mission is sharing the fate of the American businesses. This project focuses its efforts in helping American businesses increase their export levels, or initiate them in the process while they participate simultaneously in the sustainable economic growth of the nation. Therefore, weather disasters that can cause critical damage to American companies' communities, as well as potential disruption of trade routes that facilitate their exports, can also affect this project," said Raul Santiago, Owner of Santiago Consultants in Medway, Maine.


"The amplification of uncertainty in any form is never good for business. Extreme weather picks winners and losers regardless of operating efficiency," said Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc. in Baltimore. "Our attempts to mitigate the severity of these circumstances, for us and our customers, expose us to burdensome costs, which in the long run could impact our company's growth and the stability of the world economy as a whole."

"Our manufacturing facility sits only 6 feet above sea level.  Each inch of sea level rise increases the risk of flooding from storms that are increasingly severe.  We have the technology, let's put it to use," said Mark Rice, President and Founder, Maritime Applied Physics Corp, Baltimore.

"An unpredictable budget strategy brought on by severe weather and climate change impacts the business planning and risk analysis process costing businesses billions of dollars in missed opportunities globally," said Joe Reddix, President and CEO of The Reddix Group, LLC in Hanover, Md.


"The businesses in our green economy coalition in Detroit know that utility regulations in Michigan are outdated and still favor polluting fuels over clean fuels.   We have recently seen the damaging floods in Detroit that are getting worse and more damaging with climate change. It's time to move to a clean energy economy and reduce the political influence of government regulated monopoly utilities who are not committed to deep implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energies that pay for themselves and produce jobs," said Debra Rowe, Convener at Detroit Green Skills Alliance in Brighton, Mich.

"The climate changes that affect the event management business would include event insurance, increased services for winter related events, and client attendance. Climate change has created an increase in event insurance due to occurrences of flooding, natural disasters, and storms," said Marshell Germany, Event Manager, Infinity Event Solutionz in Detroit.

"With the rising cost of food prices due to climate change and severe weather, my clients must make choices between buying fresh food or canceling their life or health insurance," said Yolanda Greer Insurance Agent, Insurance Design Center LLC in Detroit.


"We are firm believers that the pursuit of sustainability should not come at the expense of business profit or end user experience," said Deepinder Singh, CEO of 75F from Burnsville Minn. "We are proud to say that the 75F technology delivers comfort and savings to our customers while saving energy and therefore lowering carbon footprint. The spirit of innovation is to solve all of these challenges in tandem and to work together both on the policies and practices that make business sense."

"Many small businesses depend on water and weather. Minnesota employs 250,000 in tourism sector from fly fishing to ice fishing, from skating to skiing, swimming to hiking. Climate change affects thousands of other Minnesota small businesses: family farms, wild rice harvesters, breweries and more," said Audrey Britton, Chair of Small Business Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn.


"The severe weather has meant a sharp increase in energy, water and medical bills. So, the President has been smart to focus on a business case for action. Smart business people look at the cost of doing nothing. Doing nothing would put us all out of business," said Monica Brett, Resilient Communities Advisor in Las Vegas, Nevada.

New York

"Many of our restaurants rely heavily on outdoor seating, which suffers when temperatures grow to hot, or when the weather is simply too volatile to plan a date. Restaurants are earning more of their business through takeout, which hurts profits because we have to pay for delivery and customers tend to order less," said Ken Biberaj, vice president of The Russian Tea Room and president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

"In my experience, climate change consistently affects the prices and ingredients within the restaurant industry," said Marc Murphy, chef and owner, Benchmarc Restaurants and Benchmarc Events by Marc Murphy. "I need to be very conscious of what products are in season, as well as what have extreme climate pricing and how that correlates within our shops. For example, the recent drought in California increased prices for romaine lettuce, avocado, and almonds, to name a few. Any severity in climate that affects farmers and crops will also affect prices for restaurateurs and ultimately the consumers as well."

"Appetizer salads were traditionally a high-profit item for restaurants. But droughts and severe weather are creating bigger gaps between regional harvests, making the price of lettuce rise like crazy," said John D'Antonio, director of operations and purchasing at in New York. "Climate change is forcing us to make tough decisions about the quality of the ingredients we use due to the continually rising costs during those gaps."

"When there's a severe weather day, we have a lot of expenses in addition to the lost revenue of having to close or shorten our hours. We pay our employees for the unexpected lost wages; we may have food that can't be used when we reopen; and if we miss deliveries or farmers can't get to us, we have to incur extra labor and food costs in going out and finding the ingredients we need at markets or stores around the city. Those losses can affect us significantly, and longer-term weather disruptions (like transportation issues in the wake of a storm) can slow business for an extended period afterwards," said Evan Hanczor, chef at Egg Restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y. "A minimized carbon footprint is a priority for us at Egg both because it's the defensible moral path but also because it's the financially sensible one."

"Climate change is an opportunity to rethink how we make things and create new business models that generate long term prosperity for people and the earth," said Jennifer van der Meer, CEO of Reason Street in New York.

"When NYC was hit by Super Storm Sandy and the lower Manhattan subways were taken out of service, we saw the direct effects of global warming. The US must be the world leader in ending carbon emissions if there is to be any hope of climate stability," said Steven Dluginski, MTA-NYCT at MSI-Emergency Response Team in New York.

North Carolina

"As a retail business, climate change and severe weather have hurt how my products and my customers get to the store," said Telissa Fair Ward, Owner of Destiny's Wardrobe in High Point, N.C. "Most of our apparel is imported from Paris, but when a shipment is delayed because of severe weather events, it hurts my bottom line. And whenever it rains for several days I have to close because customers can't get in the door when streets close. I'm glad the United States is taking a leadership role in combatting climate change--it's important for our nation's economy."

"Our mantra is to source locally, but severe weather can really impact the length of a crop's season. It was much colder than usual several nights this summer, so many local tomato crops finished their growing season earlier and it's been harder to find affordable tomatoes at a time of year when they're normally readily available. If a product is not available locally, we won't use it; that can really limit options for a menu," said William S. Dissen, owner and executive chef of The Market Place Restaurant in Asheville, N.C.

"Businesses across North Carolina are dealing with challenges brought on by severe weather and climate change," said Montinique Cager, Director of Operations for the Winston Salem Black Chamber of Commerce and CEO of The Cager Group consulting firm. "It is critical that the United States lead the global effort to curb climate change—otherwise our environment won't be the only thing that's in danger, our economy will suffer too."

"In the kitchen, I see how quickly climate change and severe weather are affecting my business every day," said Pam Cager, the Vice President of the Winston Salem Black Chamber of Commerce and Owner and Operator of For All Occasions, LLC in Winston Salem, N.C. "Key food products that used to be easy to find aren't growing as readily in the area. This is causing serious changes to our menus and our food costs. I was glad to share this experience at the White House and learn more about policies will help curb climate change."


"Climate change has drastically changed our business, not just through drought and floods, but through extreme heat-hard on animals, people, and crops. Several years of drought can and does-and recently has-bankrupt many a cowman and horseman. It's been very hard on us," said Anne Hutchinson, Owner of C/H Horse Training and Bucking Bulls in Marietta Okla.


"Environmental sustainability is a core value of our company. Our products are made from up-cycled agricultural by-products. Plus our delivery trucks and manufacturing equipment run on bio-diesel, we use recycled pallets for shipping, and we recycle materials received with our raw ingredients," said Mark Highland, Founder and President of Organic Mechanics Soil Company in West Chester, Pa. "Customers are increasingly seeking sustainable solutions for improving their gardens and these practices also save our company money. We've incorporated biochar into our product line to offer gardeners a way to build long term soil carbon storage while increasing yield and plant health. Being environmentally sustainable is best for improving soil quality and best for our bottom line."

"It's time for the United States to step up and lead the world in a positive direction in taking action on climate change," said Melissa Lee, Founder & CEO of The GREEN Program in Philadelphia. "The GREEN Program provides student leaders from around the globe with hands-on exposure to sustainable solutions. We bring in-classroom knowledge to life by exposing students who are passionate about sustainable development to the issues and solutions in some of the world's top countries leading these changes. I hope that UN Climate Change Conference in Paris is productive and sets strong standards for countries around the world."

"The extreme weather patterns make daily life more hectic and dangerous. Others nearby, closer to ocean, rivers and streams, are worse off than I am. The dangers and economic costs of global warming and rising sea levels only worsens," said David Levin, a Teacher and Author in Haverford, Penn.

"Our business is related directly to climate change. Our clients are interested in technologies that reduces carbon footprints at a minimize cost. Therefore constantly changes are made by the relevant engineering firm. These technology changes will directly reduces the carbon emission. America's investment in clean energy will help the economy. Our firm is directly involved in business development for plants technology that generates energy and reduces the carbon emission. Subsequently the carbon byproducts are used in other sectors such as manufacturing industry," said Saeid Kamalpour, President, GlobInk in Wexford, Pa.

South Dakota

"It's difficult to farm when you get massive heavy rains in a short period of time, followed by months of little or no precipitation. Sadly, I have become heavily dependent on Federal Crop Insurance. This is not sustainable. We all need to work on solutions," said David Kolsrud, co-founder of The Funding Farm in Brandon, S.D.


"I encourage other restaurant owners to examine their own business practices and find ways to become more sustainable. While some sustainability efforts cost more up front, our business has stayed profitable," said Sally Moses, owner and manager, 212 Market Restaurant in Chattanooga, Tenn. "If we don't come together and do this now, in the long run we'll need to pay more to keep the restaurant cool while the ovens are hot."


"Dallas had the most snow in 68 years in March and the wettest year on record after horrific fall rain, but spent most of the summer in drought.  The predictions that weather would get more extreme under global warming appears to be coming true more and more.  As a small business owner providing bookkeeping and CFO services to small business and nonprofits in the Dallas area, I am concerned that weather extremes will hurt small local businesses and the poor and elderly first and hardest.  We have to take action today to keep the world - and our economies - safe for future generations" said David Patillo, Owner of BridgeRight Group in Dallas.

"Climate change and severe weather has curtailed travel to various island nations; further cutting their development goals for lack of tourism income," said Madan Goyal of Passport Visa Express in Plano, Texas.

"Global Climate Change is a real issue that must be addressed in a way that balances emission reductions with economic impact. We need to empower businesses to make these needed changes, not just make "political promises" that cannot be kept," said Tom Rose, CEO, Clean Energy Technology Association, Inc. in Dallas.

"As a Texan small business owner, I understand how important it is for Texas to recognize the effects of carbon in our changing climate. Texas continues being pummeled by climatic events. Why is this recognition of carbon emissions as a cause of climate change? Because any funds that Texas may receive now for search and rescue, and for recovery from FEMA pale in comparison with the funds we may receive for disaster preparedness. If we are to accept the changing climate in an adult way, that means that we need to begin shifting our focus from post-disaster recovery and search and rescue, to a more proactive stance of disaster preparedness. Texas is an important part of the supply chain for the U.S. and the world. Our businesses depend in a strong, resilient infrastructure that can weather climatic events. Our efforts start with the recognition that carbon emissions are affecting the climate so that Texas can receive disaster preparedness dollars that will help us adapt to a changing climate," said Jose Carlos Gonzalez, Principal at Texas Health Insurance Exchange in Houston.


"As we debate how to respond to this new, severe weather, I hope the rest of America will understand just how vulnerable our farms can be," said Jake Braken, manager, Green River Companies Alfalfa Farm in Green River, Utah.


"Current action on Climate Change is woefully inadequate. We need to accelerate our investment in energy saving initiatives and clean energy," said Mark Laity-Snyder, Project Manager, EEI in Ferrum, Va.


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