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'Still In': Marketers Stand By Climate Pact After Trump Drops Out

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Several leading U.S. marketers, along with government leaders representing millions of Americans, are standing by the Paris Agreement after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the climate pact.

Some executives have spoken out against the president's decision to remove the United States from the agreement, which aims to push the world to combat climate change. Now, a coalition of businesses has signed onto "We Are Still In," a movement in which numerous state and municipal government officials, colleges and universities, and companies say they will keep supporting actions to meet the Paris Agreement.

Many of those who joined already promoted their own sustainability plans, including targets such as using more renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The wide-ranging coalition announced Monday is the first major coordinated effort signaling disagreement with the president's decision about leaving the Paris pact since Thursday's announcement.

"In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt," the group said in a June 5 letter.

Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg
Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg Credit: Apple, Amazon and Facebook

More than 1,000 companies and investment groups are part of the pact so far, from Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Gap, and Google, to Microsoft, Nestlé U.S., Nike, Target, and Twitter. Major marketers including Procter & Gamble Co., the world's largest advertiser, were absent from the list as of Tuesday afternoon. So were many major U.S. automakers, though Tesla and Volvo Group North America signed on.

VF Corp., the company behind brands including The North Face and Timberland, is a vocal proponent of the organized effort. CEO Steve Rendle said VF is "deeply disappointed" Trump pulled out and wants to be clear with potential shoppers it is doing its part on environmental matters. "Many ads reflect the excitement and value of the great outdoors. That will continue to be the case," VF VP of Corporate Relations Scott Deitz said in a statement. "At other times we partner with like-minded organizations to use helpful media channels, including paid and earned media, in telling the broader climate-change story."

VF is asking staff to take their own steps to reduce their carbon footprint. While not directly pushing consumers to do the same, its efforts could stand out to potential shoppers. "Consumers each and every day make decisions about what they support and what they don't support by how they spend their money and which brands they support," Deitz said on a call with reporters coordinated by Climate Nexus.

Another company speaking up is Nestlé USA, which mentioned We Are Still In on Twitter. Chairman and CEO Paul Grimwood noted in a LinkedIn post that Nestlé USA recently outlined its climate work and goals. "Those ambitions have not changed," he wrote. Nestlé USA said it is not planning any paid promotion of its involvement, "beyond our normal cycle for all of our digital content."

While the coalition said it had grown rapidly since its inception, some major marketers appear to be sticking to their own messages. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger each left the president's advisory council last week following Trump's decision. While Tesla signed on, Disney did not appear to be part of the group as of Tuesday. Neither was the world's biggest retailer, Walmart.

"We are disappointed by that decision, and the administration is aware of that," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said during a Friday press conference after the retailer's shareholders' meeting. McMillon said Walmart would continue to do its own work on taking carbon out of its supply chain. But he said he's not leaving Trump's Business Advisory Council over the issue. "I'd like to participate" on the forum, he said. "There will be other issues that come up. I didn't expect going into that everything we wanted to happen would happen in every case."

Even before Trump's move to exit the accord, business leaders voiced their concerns. P&G CEO David Taylor was one of the CEOs who signed an open letter to Trump in May voicing "strong support" for the United States staying in the Paris Agreement, which ran as a Wall Street Journal ad. "P&G remains committed to our sustainability vision and goals and to fully integrating sound environmental stewardship into our business practices and operations," the company said in a statement. P&G is not listed as a We Are Still In member.

We Are Still In has a long list of coordinating groups: The American Sustainable Business Council, B Team, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Center for American Progress, Ceres, CDP, Climate Mayors, Climate Nexus, C40, C2ES, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Entrepreneurs, Georgetown Climate Center, ICLEI, National League of Cities, Rocky Mountain Institute, Second Nature, Sierra Club, The Climate Group, We Mean Business, and World Wildlife Fund.