SAN DIEGO, CA — Eighteen months ago, in the fevered run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's lobbying priorities caused an uproar in the business and environmental communities. The group's stance on climate legislation led a number of companies to abandon the chamber.
What a difference a year and a half can make. With hopes for climate legislation in the U.S. dead in the water, the chamber dust-up seems like a quaint memory.
But even as the policy front goes from bad to worse, the greening of business is only getting better, and a new group based in San Diego hopes to harness the networking power of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and put it toward environmental initiatives.
The U.S. Green Chamber, launched last weekend, is the evolution of the Green Chamber of San Diego, a spinoff of a Chamber of Commerce chapter in San Diego County. Now, with a national focus and an ever-expanding membership roster, the group hopes to take its successes, and its membership of about 250 companies -- mostly in Southern California, but with some members across the country -- and scale them up to the national level.
"It's been our vision since the beginning that we do something bigger than San Diego," U.S. Green Chamber CEO David Steel explained in an interview. "This is just the right time -- I don't think we have many years to wait and see what happens. And right now, there's a really good relationship between the environmental side of things and the business side of things."
That good relationship is due in large part to the economic savings from environmental projects -- something we document every day on GreenBiz.com -- as well as the growing number of businesses focused on helping companies get greener and more efficient.
While the national Chamber of Commerce is known primarily for its lobbying prowess, for now, the U.S. Green Chamber is focused on real-world implementations, on bringing companies together to share expertise and best practices. In that sense, Steel said the Green Chamber is more of a complement to the Chamber of Commerce, rather than a replacement.
"We do some of the same things that the chamber offers," Steel said. "We're an advocate for the business, we help them establish their credibility in the community, and visibility as well. But we also layer the sustainability commitment on top of it -- no matter where you are with your sustainability projects currently, you have to make our commitment."
The Green Commitment developed by Steel's company is a roadmap for getting started on green initiatives. It starts with a commitment to put one person in charge of coordinating a company's sustainability goals and projects, and then lays out a menu of projects almost any company can undertake.