Despite corporate support for regulatory action and the economic imperative to address climate change globally and in the United States, the Supreme Court decision today in the case of West Virginia v. EPA hinders the ability of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate harmful pollutants, including carbon.
According to Ceres*, which works with the most influential capital market leaders to address sustainability challenges: “the federal case was brought to court by West Virginia along with several other states and coal companies to challenge the EPA’s authority and obligation to use the Clean Air Act—which was passed and amended by bipartisan majorities under Republican presidents—to regulate power plant carbon emissions. U.S. emissions from power plants are primary drivers of the climate crisis and pose risks to the U.S. economy and society at large.”
Most of the Fortune 500 have already taken voluntary action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and many have outlined the economic benefits associated with doing so. In fact, 15 companies also filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in January, asking for the case to be dismissed based on the instability and uncertainty that would come with scaling back critical – and long-held – EPA authority.
The implications of this ruling for companies are significant, not just in their own efforts to combat climate change but also in the role companies play in the dialogue around critical environmental and social conversations. As President Biden’s climate agenda is hampered by this regulation in the near-term, more stakeholders will turn to companies to take the lead, and use their size, scale and influence to continue aggressive steps to mitigate the climate crisis.
The companies already leading in the climate fight must challenge their peers to join them, scale up their efforts, and advocate for ambitious federal clean energy investments in the weeks ahead. Companies that are already working to reduce emissions should evaluate how this ruling will impact the work they’ve already done, and seek to reassure consumers and other stakeholders of their ongoing commitment to protecting the planet today and for future generations.
* Ceres is a client of the Purpose Center of Excellence.
Aaron is the co-lead of Purpose Center of Excellence. he has 15 years of experience helping brands and nonprofits build emotional connections with consumers. He has advised major consumer and B2B brands - from Mars and Target to New Balance, CVS Health, PwC and Aflac - on ESG strategy, reporting, and how to authentically establish and communicate brand purpose to underscore consumer loyalty and corporate reputation.
Whitney is the co-lead of Purpose Center of Excellence. With 15+ years of experience, she is a thought leader at the intersection of purpose and communications. Whitney’s expertise has helped guide forward-looking thinking and communications strategies on behalf of brands including PepsiCo, Athleta, B. Lab and others. She has personally authored upwards of 400 articles and 30 research reports on sustainability, social justice, and ESG topics and shared her message from the digital wavelengths of myriad podcasts, the lectern at Harvard University, the stage of Sundance and Fordam’s Responsible Business and Future Fashion Coalitions.