12:37pm

Wed April 24, 2013
Business & the Environment

Businesses Prod Washington for Action on Climate Change

Business leaders, including more than a hundred ski resorts, want Washington to do something about climate change. That’s the message signed by business heavyweights like Nike and Starbucks, as well as Aspen Skiing Company and smaller outfits like Monarch Mountain. And it comes after athletes delivered a letter to the White House with a similar theme.

Credit Aspen Skiing Company

 

 

"Climate change is the biggest economic opportunity, and it’s the right thing to do."

That’s Auden Schendler, Aspen Ski Co’s Vice President of Sustainability. He’s summing up what’s called the Climate Declaration... one long paragraph that business leaders are using to get lawmakers attention.

"To have Starbucks say we’re here, it’s a business case, and we’re worried about our coffee. And we employ huge amounts of people. That’s a message policy makers listen to."

And the same goes for large ski areas, too. Schendler says you only get so far by upgrading to more efficient company lightbulbs. To make a real difference, he and other business representatives believe what’s needed is a nationwide approach to cracking down on climate change. But, why hasn’t that happened yet?

"You have to have corporate visibility on climate in Washington, or lawmakers won’t move. They aren't moving now, because they're not getting enough push from constituents."

Aspen Ski Co is one of dozens of ski areas that have signed on. The effort is put together by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit, aimed at getting companies and investors to do more slow climate change.

“We are really excited about the climate declaration, because it sums things up really well in a way that resonates with ski areas.”

Geraldine Link is with the National Ski Areas Association. The organization coordinated more than a hundred ski areas signing on with the Climate Declaration. Link says there’s a key reason why.

“It identifies climate change as an economic priority.”

Link also points out that while Aspen Ski Co has been politically outspoken before the declaration, they’re not alone.

“Ski areas have endorsed, for example, the McCain-Lieberman bill, the Gilchrest-Olver bill, the climate stewardship Act, the Lieberman-Warner bill, the Waxman-Markey bill..."

That’s a long list of climate legislation.

“However, I’ll also say that when you go to Washington to lobby on an issue, you have to have credibility. So if you’re reducing your own carbon footprint back at home, you’re in a much better position to advocate to policy makers."

The National Ski Areas Association is working with twenty resorts to monitor and reduce greenhouse gasses. One of those is Vail Resorts, which runs the most skiable terrain in the country. CEO Rob Katz  raised eyebrows at the beginning of the season with an opinion article in the Denver Post. He said quote:“…you can count me out of the group that says we need to address climate change to save skiing.” That was along with an ad in the New York Times playing on the term “climate change” and showing lots of snow. If that created any confusion, Beth Ganz is clear about the company’s position. She’s VP of Public Affairs and Sustainability for Vail Resorts.

“We believe, as do many, that climate change is one of if not the most important issue facing the world today. But we don’t believe that climate change is an issue simply because the ski season could get shorter.”


Ganz says the larger effects on the planet as a whole are more important. Vail believes that so strongly, it hasn’t run any models looking at when--or if-- company might run out of snow.

“I think we’re focused on the here and now, and what we can do to do our part today, and in tomorrow. That is our sincere commitment to creating a true culture of sustainability across the company, involving thousands of employees and lessening our impact.”

Vail has signed onto the business-coordinated climate declaration as well. Aspen’s Auden Schendler says the roster needs to be longer.

“We need GE, and we need the even the bigger countries, we have Intel in there, but we need more huge ones. But it’s a start.”

And if any of those executives need convincing, Aspen Highlands and a few other Colorado ski areas will be open for a little longer  this season.