Last year, Internet auction giant eBay completed the largest commercial solar installation in San Jose at the company’s environmentally friendly campus. Meanwhile, Symantec, the huge maker of Internet security software, which is actively slashing energy use, completed a first survey of its own greenhouse gas emissions — with an eye to reducing them. But both businesses were among a slew of technology companies that took an even bigger step on global warming action this year — they joined in lobbying on climate change legislation in Washington.
Tech firms were prominent among about 140 businesses and organizations that jumped into the climate change fray on Capitol Hill in the first quarter of this year, The Center for Public Integrity found in an analysis of Senate lobbying records. The new players led to a 14 percent increase in the number of interests lobbying on global warming — just as Congress embarked on landmark legislation to limit greenhouse gas pollution.
Tech interests registered to lobby on climate this year who were not in the mix last year include Microsoft, Google, Dell, AT&T Services, Nokia, and Northrop Grumman. All have varied interests, and some are more willing to talk about them than others. Microsoft, for example, declined to comment on its interests in the climate debate.
But eBay and Symantec both happen to be part of a new coalition that has been outspoken in its advocacy for climate action — Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy. Brought together by the investor activism group Ceres, BICEP includes not only tech firms, but consumers goods names such as Nike, which has been working on climate issues for some time, as well as newcomers to the debate, like Levi Strauss & Co.
Marcy Scott Lynn, director of corporate sustainability and responsibility for BICEP founding member Sun Microsystems, says she was amused by the initial reactions when tech companies like hers decided to play a bigger role in the climate change debate on Capitol Hill.
“Initially, people seemed surprised, as if these things should be left to the oil and gas and coal companies and power plants,” she says. “But why wouldn’t the consumers of energy and the innovators be involved? This is exactly where we should be.”
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