Thursday, August 21, 2014
by Ari Natter
Microsoft Corp. has left the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
because of concerns about the lobbying group's opposition to renewable energy,
a coalition of activist investor groups said.
Sustainability Group and Walden Asset Management, asset management companies
that describe themselves as focused on sustainable investing, said Microsoft
confirmed in e-mails that it's no longer a part of ALEC after the groups
pressed the company to abandon it.
is a leader on carbon issues—in 2012, it committed to becoming carbon neutral,
and is one of the largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy,” the
Boston-based groups said in a news release. “Thus, we believe that its affiliation
with ALEC, which is actively fighting policies that promote renewable energy,
was incongruous. In addition, there were numerous other ALEC actions that
conflicted directly with Microsoft's values.”
Va.-based ALEC has drafted model legislation for use in state legislatures to
roll back renewable fuel standards across the country. Its members include
ExxonMobil Corp., Peabody Energy Inc., American Electric Power Co. and Koch
Industries Inc., according to the Checks and Balances Project, a nonprofit
watchdog group that supports the use of clean energy.
response to a request for comment, Microsoft told Bloomberg BNA: “In 2014,
Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange
Council (ALEC) Communications and Technology Task Force. Our trade association
memberships are determined annually on a case by case basis and are based on a
number of factors, including evolving policy priorities, business needs and
of Budget Cuts
Meierling, a spokesman for ALEC, said Microsoft left the organization July 16
for budgetary reasons and not as a result of the group's positions on renewable
left because of budget cuts. They are rearranging their government relations
here in D.C.,” Meierling said in an interview with Bloomberg BNA. “This is
groups opposed to ALEC up to their old tricks.”
announced July 17 it planned to eliminate as many as 18,000 jobs, the largest
round of cuts in its history, Bloomberg News reported.
Sustainability Group, along with Walden Asset Management, said in a joint news
release Aug. 19 that they began pressing Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft to
leave ALEC in 2013.
to the groups, Microsoft, which had been a member of ALEC's Communications and
Technology Task Force, sent an e-mail on July 14 that said, “We are no longer
members of ALEC and do not provide the organization with financial support of
Called Part of Ongoing Dialogue
interview, Timothy Smith, Walden Asset Management's senior vice president and
director of environmental social and governance shareowner engagement, said the
e-mails, which the group sent to investors last month, were part of an ongoing
dialogue Walden had been having with Microsoft.
an ongoing debate inside the company,” Walden said of the company's
participation in ALEC.
which manages $8 billion in assets, considers Microsoft one of its major
holdings, Smith said.
approved model legislation for the 2013 legislative session designed to be used
to repeal states' renewable portfolio standards and wrote a new version for
standards, which exist in 29 states, have been credited with being one of the
largest drivers of renewable energy generation in the U.S. and are expected to
drive more than 40,000 megawatts of renewable electricity generation by 2015,
according to the Energy Department.
to the Environmental Protection Agency, 50 percent—or more than 1.3 billion
kilowatt hours—of the power used by Microsoft annually comes from renewable
energy sources, including biogas, biomass, solar and wind. That makes it No. 3
on the EPA's list of top companies that voluntarily use renewables.
Example to Others
has demonstrated a commitment in recent years to clean energy and climate
action by introducing an internal carbon fee and purchasing large amounts of
wind energy to power two of its data centers—all actions which run contrary to
ALEC's goal of killing the clean energy economy,” Greenpeace Senior IT Policy
Analyst Gary Cook said in a statement.
Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, Yelp and other technology companies that are currently
still ALEC members would do well to learn from Microsoft's leadership,” Cook
major corporations that have left ALEC include Coca-Cola, General Motors, Bank
of America and Procter & Gamble,
according to Common Cause, a Washington, D.C., group that has challenged ALEC's
status as a nonprofit organization.
to Common Cause, “the exodus” began in 2011 after public exposure related to
the group's development of proposals to block renewable energy, as well as
other issues such as restrictive voter ID requirements, anti-union measures and
“Stand Your Ground” gun bills.
Should Decide Energy Choices
said ALEC continues to grow and isn't opposed to renewable energy specifically.
Rather, Meierling said, the group believes consumers, not mandates, should decide
consumer energy choices.
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