Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Stunning EPA Climate Leaders Meeting: Headline from the EPA “Go Pound Sand”

These are my notes from the EPA Climate Leaders meeting today and reflect my personal observations and views.

The headline is that this program is done. The EPA has absolute zero interest receiving input from large companies about this voluntary program. The transition process to sunset this program is rushed and amateurish.

Clearly there is a change at the EPA level on how they want to work with large companies in voluntary programs.

Around 150 attendees are this last EPA Climate Leaders meeting.

Some specifics of program wind-down
- Program closing down (EPA website and brand logo to be retired Sep 2011)
- Transition for existing companies has not been clearly worked out
- Frustrations are very high. Companies remain in shock.
- The EPA plans to issue an RFP later this year looking for an NGO that could replace part of the program.

Large companies remain extremely frustrated. During the Q&A session, many large companies (SC Johnson, DuPont, Merck, and Ingersoll Rand) publicly expressed disappointment and frustration. Private conversations were even more heated. No one spoke publicly in support of EPA decision or the wind-down process.

Gina McCarthy, Assistant Admin, Office of Air and radiation, EPA, was blunt and unrelenting: “Our relationship with you [200 climate leaders] must change.” She left after her talk and some Q&A.

A few of the many issues companies raised were
- NGOs are not a replacement for credibility that comes with an EPA program
- What happens with publicly stated goals (will they be recognized?)
- How do we message this transition internally?
- Loss of face or credibility internally for companies
- Mandatory reporting requirements are different than voluntary reporting. We invested in voluntary reporting to reduce our reporting costs for mandatory.

Companies feel burnt. Companies were burnt.

The EPA could have done a variety of things to help ease the transition, such as allowing existing program members to use the EPA Climate Leaders logo for the next 5 years as they achieve their reduction goals, increasing service fees for the free technical consulting, provide more time on the transition, etc.

But, it seemed very obvious to me, from the blunt comments from Gina McCarthy to the absolute deflated EPA Climate Leaders program team on the dais after Ms. McCarthy left, that the EPA has zero interest in maintaining a partner relationship or even a working relations with the large companies.

Executives from SC Johnson, Merck, and Cummings were very articulate in their feedback. One company said they traveled to the conference in hopes of sharing ideas on how to keep the program going, but this is not an option.

Everyone including the EPA agrees that the program was very successful for the last 8 years.

The Administration and the EPA have a very different approach on how it wants to work with businesses. Buyer beware in participating in the next EPA programs.

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