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eBay, Gap and Symantec Help Climate Coalition Flex Its Muscle

The advocacy group Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy -- also known as BICEP -- flexed its muscle Thursday with a new crop of members to help push for aggressive climate change policies.

Gap Inc., eBay and Symantec joined the four-month-old coalition whose founding members include corporate heavyweights Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Sun Microsystems, Starbucks and The Timberland Co. The group, organized by nonprofit Ceres, subscribes to a set of climate change principles that are, in some ways, more progressive than those of President Barack Obama.

For instance, BICEP wants the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; President Obama has said he wants to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 -- a reduction of nearly 17 percent and in line with California's goals. BICEP also wants to auction all carbon allowances in a future cap-and-trade, a position President Obama shares, although some reports suggest he may be reconsidering.

BICEP members represent consumer-facing and less carbon-intensive companies, unlike those participating in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which tend to be heavier emitters and more likely to face direct regulation under a mandatory greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system.

BICEP's newest members said participating in the coalition offers several benefits.

"Though we have worked for many years to address various social and environmental issues in our supply chain, like water quality at denim laundries, for example -- we're just beginning to understand our overall environmental footprint,"  Gap Spokeswoman Melissa Swanson said via email. "By joining BICEP, we hope to learn from our peers and inspire more businesses to join this call for action."

A constructive multi-stakeholder dialogue will allow the group to take the resulting insight to policy makers in Washington, D.C. "It's critical for a coalition such as BICEP to help influence U.S. legislation," Tiffany Jones, Symantec's director of public policy and government relations, said in a statement.

Libby Reder, eBay's head of environmental initiatives, agreed.

"We're going to have a chance to shape the face of legislation that is going to impact the way we all do business," Reder told Thursday.

eBay will work to align BICEP's key principles with its own environmental efforts, such as exploring green building and tapping its workforce to create a companywide green team. Though it appears as though heavy emitting industries will likely face direct regulation, the company is also hedging against a probable rise in energy prices by investing in energy efficiency and green power.

"The sooner we can get clarity on the legislation, the sooner we can plan for our business in the future," Reder said.

Joining the group raises the possibility of working together to create shared value. "In our work to address human and labor rights issues over the past 13-plus years, we've realized we can't make real, sustainable change alone," Swanson said. "It takes multi-stakeholder efforts like BICEP, with the private sector, NGOs, governments and other experts coming together to really make a difference."

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