Citing protests, Ford withdraws from GCC

Alison Storm

Ford Motor Company has decided not to renew its membership with the Global Climate Coalition due to recent controversy surrounding the organization.

GCC represents more than 230,000 firms and is the target of some environmental groups and activists across college campuses. Some groups believe GCC is obstructing global warming research and legislation.

Ford is one of the four companies involved with GCC in which Iowa State invests. The other companies are Norfolk Southern, Cinergy and TECO Energy.

Brad Nahill, of the nonprofit Washington D.C.-based environmental group Ozone Action, called the move by Ford “a huge victory for the divestment campaign.”

Ozone Action is coordinating many of the divestment campaigns on college campuses across the country.

“It’s absolutely helping to discredit [GCC] and show their true colors,” Nahill said.

Ford has been part of the GCC since its conception in 1989, said Ford spokesman Terry Bresnihan. He said the company’s decision was sparked by the negative press the GCC has received, which began to affect the positive work Ford was attempting to do.

“The GCC had been a useful way for us to interface with the government on this issue, but in more recent years it’s become really a lightening rod for critics of our industry,” Bresnihan said. “To us, it was becoming an impediment to our ability to move forward credibly with environmental initiatives.”

GCC board member TECO Energy, another company in which ISU invests, has no immediate plans to leave GCC, said Laura Plumb, spokeswoman for TECO, but the company perpetually reviews all of its associations.

“We are in a constant state of evaluating our memberships,” she said, “but I know of no immediate reason why we would be terminating with the GCC. We look at what it offers the company, and we look at what the company represents.”

Frank Maisano, spokesman for GCC, said he is disappointed at Ford’s decision because GCC and Ford share many of the same positions.

“To this day, we advocate the same solutions,” Maisano said. “[Ford is] for voluntary programs and partnerships. They are for new technology, and that is a fundamental principle on what GCC is about. There is no difference in opinion.”

Bresnihan said Ford is not changing its stance on global warming issues.

“Even though we don’t think all of the facts are in, we do believe greenhouse gases and temperatures are increasing,” Bresnihan said. “Ford has a done a number of very significant actions in terms of environmental responsibility, yet we would still have sectors of society pointing to the GCC and saying we can’t accept your efforts as credible as long as you are still there.”

Brad Shrader, chairman of the Department of Management at ISU, said departing from GCC was a positive action for Ford to take. As the company becomes more global, Shrader said it will have to appeal to the growing trend of environmentally sound products.

“It’s just a good thing to do to be more environmentally astute,” Shrader said. “It seems like a good, socially responsible move on Ford’s part to do what they did.”

College campuses across the United States, including the University of Washington and the University of California at Los Angeles, have begun campaigns for universities to divest from investments with companies that hold membership with GCC.

Nahill said he will attempt to involve more college campuses in the effort to convince other companies to step away from GCC, and he hopes other companies follow in Ford’s footsteps.

“Our next step is to jack up the pressure another level and use Ford as an angle to push General Motors and other companies.”