New voices, proposals emerging in Boston’s biz community

Officials say addressing climate change is good for business

WINDS OF CHANGE are starting to blow through Boston’s business community.

One clear signal came earlier this month, when close to 20 business organizations said they would heed an appeal from House Speaker Robert DeLeo to help develop a transportation policy that likely will call for additional revenues. “It’s time for a united voice from the business community that can be a powerful driver of progress,” said Jim Rooney, the CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

On the issue of climate change – and what to do about it – the folks at the Environmental League of Massachusetts say business community attitudes are also changing on climate change. League officials offered up for the CommonWealth Codcast three business leaders who reflect that change — Cynthia Curtis, senior vice president of sustainability at the commercial real estate firm JLL; Kyle Cahill, director of corporate responsibility at John Hancock; and Tedd Saunders, chief sustainability officer at the Saunders Hotel Group.

“For a long time, legislators were only hearing from industry representatives and businesses that said this legislation or that policy is going to be bad for business – we’re going to have to lay off people and costs will go up,” said Saunders.

But Saunders said that more and more members of the business community are coming to realize that addressing climate change is not just what customers and employees want, but what their businesses need. “We know it’s good for business in the long run,” he said.

The three business officials were in favor of a number of policies favored by environmental groups. Curtis said she favors putting a price on carbon, a view that was backed by Cahill and Saunders. Cahill said the primary focus of policymakers should be on reducing emissions in the building and transportation sectors and improving resiliency in the face of encroaching seas. He mentioned congestion pricing as one solution in the transportation sector.

While many other business groups (the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and the Massachusetts Coalition for Sustainable Energy are two examples) favor more natural gas pipeline capacity into the region, Curtis, speaking for herself and not her company, said she thinks another pipeline isn’t needed. She said transmission companies and local utilities should first fix the leaks in existing pipelines. ”Fix them, as opposed to bringing in another,” she said.

Saunders agrees. He said Massachusetts needs to invest in local renewables that will keep energy dollars in the Bay State instead of flowing out of state.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

All three business officials said much work remains to be done on climate change in Massachusetts, and state government must play a big role in that effort.

“We need bold leadership,” Saunders said.  “We’re not where we need to be in order to meet the challenges that the scientists say we are facing. There’s broad consensus. There’s more consensus about climate change than cigarette smoking. It’s been studied more. It’s understood in every country, even some countries that are far behind us in terms of development, that this is something that needs to be dealt with. It’s only going to get more expensive to deal with these issues.”