Trade and business associations engage in many activities and serve multiple purposes for their member companies. One of their most important functions is government relations, more commonly known as lobbying: advocating for the interests of their member companies on questions of public policy.
Since the regulation of heat-trapping emissions that cause global warming may have significant impacts (either positive or negative) on member companies, it is not surprising that many trade groups are actively engaged in lobbying on climate policy issues.
But because climate change is such a complex phenomenon, its impacts—and the impact of policies intended to address it—may vary widely among member companies. Thus any position a trade group takes on the issue may represent the views of only a portion of its members.
The 2013 UCS study Assessing Trade and Business Groups' Positions on Climate Change examines the climate change positions taken by 14 trade and business associations that have been most active on climate policy.
The report is a followup to our 2012 study, A Climate of Corporate Control, which examined statements and actions on climate change made by individual companies.
The report evaluates the 14 associations' climate change positions according to three criteria:
Acceptance of the Science—Does the association accept basic climate science as the foundation for discussion of climate change policy?
Support for Climate Action—Does the association express support for clear and substantial emissions-reduction goals, or do they use language that is more vague and qualified?
Policy Endorsement--Has the association gone beyond general support for climate action to endorse a specific climate policy proposal?
Evaluations are based on a wide range of information sources, including interviews with association staff members, statements on association websites or on social media platforms, statements to the news media, testimony to Congress, and public comments on proposed regulations or legislation.
What member companies can do
Trade and business associations can use their role as private-sector leaders to help facilitate serious policy actions aimed at addressing climate change—and member companies can and should encourage them to do so. The report recommends the following steps for companies to take:
- Insist that their associations accept climate science
- Urge their associations to adopt policy goals that reflect this acceptance
- Push their associations to take stronger and more public positions in support of policies that will result in meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions
- Disclose whether they agree or disagree with their associations’ policy positions