Businesses for Climate Action Call for Bold, Paradigm-Shifting Legislation at the Vermont State House

Burlington, Vt. (February 7, 2024) – Leadership from Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR), Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), Seventh Generation, SunCommon, and more called for bold climate action this legislative session at the State House in Montpelier. On February 1, as part of a Businesses for Climate Action Lobby Day, over 60 of Vermont’s business leaders from a broad array of industries spent the day urging legislators, other businesses, and the people of Vermont to champion legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and strengthens the state’s resiliency to a changing climate.

At the Businesses for Climate Action press conference, held in the historic Cedar Creek Room in the State House, podium statements were delivered by:

  • Ben & Jerry’s: Christopher Miller, Global Social Mission Director
  • Seventh Generation: Kate Ogden, Head of Advocacy and Movement Building
  • SunCommon: Brooke Murray, Human Resources
  • Global Village Foods: Mel Hall, Co-Founder
  • Vermont Green Football Club: Sam Glickman, Co-Founder
  • Fringe Impact: Ruchi Nadkarni, Social Impact and Equity Strategy Consultant
  • VBSR: Roxanne Vought, Executive Director

Other participants included Burton, Capstone Community Action, Chroma Technology Corp., Danforth Pewter, Encore Renewable Energy, FirstLight, Gordon’s Window Decor, Groennfell Meadery, GuideHouse, Helm Construction Solutions, Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Mamava, Natural Designs, Norwich Solar, Pathstone, Reframe Lab, The Mountain Guides, Turtle Fur, Ursa Major, Vermont Cooperative for Practice Improvement and Innovation, Vermont Creamery, Vermont Economic Development Authority, Vermont Evaporator Company, Vermont Foodbank, Vermont Integrated Architecture, Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance, Woodbury Mountain Toys, Working Fields, and Zero Gravity Craft Brewery.

Following the press conference, participants held State House meetings with various legislators and committees to share their stories, business case, and support for swift, bold climate action in Vermont. Specific legislation opportunities discussed were:

  • Updating the existing Renewable Energy Standard – known as the “RES” – making Vermont the first in the nation to reach 100% renewable energy.
  • 723 – Passing a comprehensive Flood Omnibus bill that includes financial assistance and support for small businesses impacted by flooding, many of whom have yet to recover.
  • 259 and H.809 – Establishing a Climate Superfund that holds fossil fuel corporations accountable to the Vermont communities they have impacted and requires these companies to clean up the messes they are responsible for, including the billions of dollars in Vermont damages projected in the near future.

Following are selections from the podium statements:

VBSR: Roxanne Vought, Executive Director
“VBSR is here to focus on the role of government in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening our state’s resiliency to a changing climate – and why this is a critical priority for so many businesses across Vermont; businesses of diverse industry, geography, stage, and size.

The businesses standing before you recognize an urgency to tackle the climate crisis: for the viability of the communities we call home; the responsibility we share to justly transition away from fossil fuels; the economic imperative of expediting sufficient financial aid to flood-impacted businesses; and the paradigm-shifting opportunity to hold fossil fuel companies accountable.

We must simultaneously reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build our resiliency to climate change, and reverse the age-old pattern of these impacts disproportionately affecting low-income, global-majority, and other marginalized communities. We need our state’s government to bring courageous leadership, resources, and bold thinking to these challenges. And we commit to working together toward solutions.”

Seventh Generation: Kate Ogden, Head of Advocacy and Movement Building
“For better or worse – and historically, for worse – the business community has had outsize influence over policy, and for the fossil fuel industry, that influence has led to decades of climate denial and delay.

That denial and delay has brought us to this moment. The catastrophic flooding of this past summer, one event, and not the only climate disaster of 2023 in Vermont, resulted in half a billion dollars in damage claims. In the decades ahead we can expect that flooding alone, just flooding, from extreme weather events could cost the state 5.2 billion dollars.

I am here today because I believe that businesses are accountable for their impact. I am here today to call on legislators to take bold action for the climate. I am calling on legislators to move swiftly to pass the Climate Superfund Act.

This bill would ensure that the biggest historical polluters in the state – the companies that have known for almost 50 years that their products were destabilizing the planet we live on – that those companies pay their fair share of the costs inflicted on our state by the climate crisis.”

SunCommon: Brooke Murray, Human Resources
“The passing of the Inflation Reduction Act provides a clear runway into the next decade to really accelerate the transition to a clean energy future – bringing new, local, clean electricity onto our electric grid. Now, we need our state politics to follow suit. That’s why we’re here in support of House Bill 289.

Updating the Renewable Energy Standard to 100% renewable energy with at least 20% of that coming from within the state of Vermont is the right thing to do for Vermonters, our climate, and our local economy. Currently, Vermonters spend over $2.5 billion a year on fossil fuels with a wide majority of that leaving our state. A clean energy economy keeps more of that money in our state as Vermonters and Vermont businesses save money with more efficient clean energy technologies.

It is time for Vermont to step up and to do our part in supporting the new clean electricity here in New England and in our brave little state. House bill 289 provides a clear and real vision for that future. We are here to urge our legislators pass this legislation this year.”

Global Village Foods: Mel Hall, Co-Founder
“On August 28, 2011, floodwaters from tropical storm Irene showed up and quickly inundated our brand-new facility with six feet worth of flood water. This was a rare event in 2011. What we know now is that this is not uncommon. These large, water-fueled weather systems – moving slowly, dumping torrents and rivers of water into the Vermont valleys and channeled landscapes – are more the norm than the exception.

And this is why we’re at this moment. Businesses, property owners, other Vermonters – right here in Montpelier itself – have experienced the power of the warming climate and the impact that it can have.

I am grateful to live and work in Vermont because this state has an ethos and, I would dare say the expectation, that political and business leaders along with everyday citizens will come together around solutions with a thoughtful ‘yes and’ approach.

The Flood Omnibus bill for us now represents an opportunity to have tough conversations in a respectful, problem-solving format, that will once again allow us to set an example for the nation – and indeed the world – as to how we can take the light of truth and focus that into a beam of action that provides direction and leads to a better tomorrow. This, I believe, is the power of what we can do now in the state of Vermont.”

Vermont Green Football Club: Sam Glickman, Co-Founder
“We’ve learned from the leadership of Vermont businesses, from the examples set by our fellow Vermonters, and we’ve had the privilege to export values that they’ve modeled for us as we’ve collaboratively built a soccer club that’s about more than just soccer.

What Vermont may not offer yet in professional players or large stadiums we make up for with the collective voice and passion of our values-led supporters. Soccer fans across the country and the world, as well as organizations as high in the sports pyramid as Major League Soccer, have taken note of our club, have reached out – they’ve looked to be inspired by a new expectation for the role that professional and semiprofessional sports can play in their communities and in the movement towards climate action.

Now, we need those values expressed in the form of legislation championed by our elected officials – this session, right here at home. We know Vermont can continue to be a leader in bold climate action legislation and enduring environmental justice. And I’m proud to have the opportunity to stand along so many passionate Vermonters who are committed to championing this change alongside us.”

Fringe Impact: Ruchi Nadkarni, Social Impact and Equity Strategy Consultant
“The work of this session’s Flood Omnibus bill is a package neatly wrapped with a bow: a meticulous and almost comprehensive set of actions to set us up for the ‘next big thing’. And make no mistake, there will be a ‘next big thing’.

Earlier this week, the Burlington Free Press published a profile of Montpelier’s Three Penny Taproom. It concludes with these thoughts from one of the co-owners, Kevin Kerner:

If the capital city is to thrive, Kerner said government needs to do something about Montpelier’s tendency to flood, especially considering the looming prospect of climate change. ‘The future of Montpelier could be bleak if flood mitigation isn’t taken seriously. This July flood is not a 100-year flood,’ Kerner said. ‘If it happens again, we’ll lose the majority of the businesses.’

When we finish here today, we’re walking over to Three Penny Taproom to connect and celebrate and make plans for what’s next in our advocacy journey together. If Mr. Kerner is right – and we believe he is – our elected leaders must solve for flood mitigation and recovery simultaneously with the Flood Omnibus bill. Otherwise, there may not be a taproom – or much of anything else – to walk to in the future.”

Ben & Jerry’s: Christopher Miller, Global Social Mission Director
“Businesses like certainty – this climate crisis introduces a level of uncertainty into our business which we see as an existential threat.

We are strongly supporting of all three of the key climate priorities this session: the Renewable Energy Standard, the Omnibus relief bill, as well as the Climate Superfund bill – and we urge legislators to take action in this session on those pieces of legislation.

There are those that say this is an expensive and complicated problem to solve and that we’re just a small piece of the problem. But everyone can do something. And I can tell you the cost of inaction for our company, for my community, our state, and the world is exponentially higher than the cost of action itself.”

About VBSR

VBSR is a statewide, non-profit business association with a mission to leverage the power of business for positive social and environmental impact. VBSR’s 700 member businesses and organizations strive toward a just, thriving, and transformative economy that works for all people and the planet through shared learning, community building, and collective action.