If you believe the rhetoric coming out of the Trump administration you may be inclined to think that environmental regulations that compel corporations to invest in sustainability are undermining economic prosperity, however the facts show just the opposite.
The Trump administration has premised its anti-regulation stance on the false belief that government regulations undermine economic growth. The facts reveal that there is a very substantial economic windfall associated with corporate investments in sustainability.
As made clear by Trump during the campaign and subsequently by chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon this administration will not only deregulate, they are intent on dismantling government. This is especially true for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and government departments involved in environmental and climate concerns.
Very early in his presidency Trump declared war on the EPA and Republicans put forward a bill to kill the EPA outright. Trump advisor Myron Ebell, formerly a member of the fossil fuel funded anti-regulation thinktank known as the Competitive Enterprise Institute said, “The environmental movement is, in my view, the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world.”
Ebell has questioned the veracity of climate science yet he was the man who was put in charge of the EPA transition team. The EPA is now being led by Scott Pruitt who is dismantling the agency he has been charged to lead. His emails reveal what most already know, Pruitt is anti-regulation advocate who is working for industry not the American public.
Pruitt has recently questioned the science demonstrating the relationship between emissions and climate change. Trump has made is clear that he believes efforts to curtail carbon emissions is making US companies less competitive.
As reported in the Guardian, Ebell said US voters had rejected expert scientists, who he dismisses as “expertariats” and in his view they are “full of arrogance or hubris.” Ebell also said Trump “thinks that global warming is not a crisis and does not require drastic and immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Ebell appears to suggest that the Trump administration will not participate in the Paris Climate Agreement saying, “The people who elected him don’t want a seat at the table.”
These views are at odds with the scientific consensus on climate change and the need for urgent action. Ebell derided climate scientists calling them, “The climate-industrial complex” and referring to them as, “a gigantic special interest that involves everyone from the producers of higher priced energy to the academics that benefit from advancement in their careers and larger government grants.”
Trump has signed an Executive Order that says agencies must eliminate at least two regulations for each new one. To get a sense of just how far this administration and Republicans plan to go with deregulation consider the recent bill that just passed in the GOP controlled House of Representatives. The bill called the REINS Act states that all new regulations must be approved by a specific resolution in each House of Congress within 70 days to take effect. This effectively kills any hope of new regulations and this imperils the health and well being of Americans.
The sustainability opportunity
Contrary to Ebell’s assertions sustainability is not an economic drag it is rather a very significant opportunity. Ebell is advocating another false narrative that has become the defining feature of the Trump administration. The anti-science, anti-media efforts of this administration are designed to create an environment in which their lies go unchallenged.
Men like Ebell, Pruitt and the former CEO of Exxon and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, try to muddy the waters by suggesting that the science is unclear or patently false. This is a bold faced lie that has been promulgated by the fossil fuel industry for decades. Climate change is the most studied phenomenon in history and the science is settled.
As recounted by economists and scientists alike, failure to capitalize on the multi-trillion dollar opportunities offered by sustainability focused practices, will result in tremendous costs in terms of human lives and the economy.
A number of studies show that companies that invest in sustainability enjoy a very significant return on their investment. A number of reports further demonstrate that the cost of acting on climate change is far less than the cost of inaction (to access dozens reports on the ROI of sustainability click here and for cost benefit analyses of climate action click here).
An Environmental Leader article reviewed a recent report that further supported the climate action trend in business. A survey by the consulting firm Pure Strategies and Verdantix indicates that corporate investments in sustainability and circular economy initiatives are “on the rise — and yielding increased sales and cost savings.”
This survey revealed that more than 80 percent of global companies with revenues of at least $250 million expect a sustainability budget increase from 2016 to 2017 with a third anticipating double-digit growth. As reported by Environmental Leader:
“The survey respondents reported gaining about $800 million from increased sales and $800 million in manufacturing cost savings, with additional earnings in risk reduction, productivity gains, and enhanced growth opportunities adding up to billions in value. Companies that report earning the most from sustainability plan to further increase their budgets, pointing to a key link between sustainability program investment and business benefits. The survey also found the number of companies using renewable energy is anticipated to nearly double, from 26 percent in 2016 to 46 percent in 2019.”
The savings alone speak for themselves. The survey reports that Walmart has saved $1 billion a year on improved fleet efficiency. “This report shows that companies know sustainability is good business,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer for Walmart. “Strengthening product supply chains and other systems today will benefit customers, business and society tomorrow.”
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