Nike quits the Chamber. When will the sanctimony end?

by Marlo Lewis on September 30, 2009

in Blog

Today’s Greenwire (subscription required) reports that Nike, the sports shoe king, is resigning its position on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. Nike supports cap-and-trade legislation, a national renewable portfolio standard, a moratorium on new coal power plants lacking carbon capture and storage, and EPA regulation of CO2 under the Clean Air Act. The Chamber opposes all of the foregoing.

Although the Greenwire story is not slanted, neither is it particularly informative. The reporter makes no effort to ascertain what bottom line interest might account for Nike’s decision to quit the Chamber, or for the company’s decision to join the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP) coalition, a project of Ceres, the Gorethodox investor network.

The vast majority of Nike’s production facilities are in China and other Asian developing countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. (I can’t find exact numbers — Nike appears to be coy about the details.) Nike factories in developing Asia would not be subject to CO2 controls from either Waxman-Markey or EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act.

What’s more, if the G-77 Plus China hang tough at the Copenhagen climate conference, and the successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol continues to exempt developing countries from legally binding emission limits, then the comparative advantage (lower energy costs) those countries already enjoy under Kyoto will increase, making Nike factories even more profitable to invest in.

Here’s what an honest Nike press release might say: 

Nike believes U.S. policymakers should use law, regulation, and the Copenhagen treaty to hobble domestic firms in favor of the Asian economies where our facilities are located. In contrast, the U.S. Chamber opposes policies that would offshore more U.S. jobs and investment to China and developing Asia. A truly carbon-constrained world would destroy jobs and growth in Asia, too. However, that’s years away, and Nike cares only about its short-term bottom line. Therefore, we are pulling out of the Chamber. 

Instead, Nike tut-tutted about the need for “urgent action” on climate change. When will the sanctimony end?

Mark October 1, 2009 at 11:48 am

Yeah, but those sanctimonious sportswear makers in Portland have to be sweating it out if any sort of “carbon tariff” against “carbon scofflaw” nations is enacted.

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