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Founder Fridays

Building Back Better

Each month the owners of Keap reflect on the theme of our Ignite Story, and consider what the topics mean for us as individuals and business owners.

Harry here, writing to you in my pajamas from my improvised quarantine home office.

I have been wondering what the societal role of a small business like Keap can be in the Covid-19 crisis. We came to terms early on with our inability to meaningfully support disaster relief efforts due to our size. However, we can play a role in helping define what rebuilding looks like.

Last week, Stephen and I joined Dr. Bronner, Amy’s Kitchen, and over 300 other green businesses to ask our elected officials on Capitol Hill to build a climate-inclusive path forward from COVID-19. In a single day, we collectively held meetings with 88 congressional offices to dispel the myth that addressing climate change is bad for business. Of course, this all happened via video conference.

It’s too early to evaluate the impact of this day, and there will be more actions needed in the months ahead. Personally, I felt I learned a huge amount. It was our first time speaking directly to Congresspeople: we got a sense of how people speak in that world and a better understanding of the politics of climate change.

Senator Whitehouse summarized it best, and I’ll paraphrase here.

There is overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that climate change is real and caused by human activity. There is also bipartisan support—both in the general population and in Congress—for addressing climate change in a big way. The partisan split on this topic is fabricated (more on that later). Just under a decade ago, Congress came extremely close to agreeing on a price on carbon, which climate experts view as the single greatest policy lever to reduce emissions, mainly because it impacts all sectors of the economy. So why did it get derailed?

Understanding the answer to this question is the key to unlocking climate action in the U.S., and by extension the world.

On a call with Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the leading champion of climate change legislation in our Congress. That’s me in the tiny top right corner!


In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court gave their notorious ruling in the Citizens United vs. FEC case, giving private for-profit corporations free reign to spend their money to influence elections. The fossil fuel industry forcefully took this opportunity, investing not just in direct, now legal, corruption of elected officials—but also by infiltrating large trade associations that speak to Congress on behalf of businesses across many other industries. 

Unsurprisingly, the man who did more than anyone to achieve the Citizens United ruling, Mitch McConnell, is also the man standing in the way of congressional climate action. If McConnell were to give the all-clear, more than enough Republicans would come out in support of a carbon pricing law.

What made me hopeful was that the fossil fuel industry and McConnell’s grip on this issue is looking increasingly fragile. And there are things we can do to further push the issue.

The traumatic effect of COVID-19 is changing political winds. A blue wave in the November elections is a serious possibility; that’s solution #1.
Solution #2 is around a coalition of business sectors outside of fossil fuels fighting back with the same (ultimately, still corrupt) tactics. If McConnell has to choose between fossil fuel money on one hand, and finance, agriculture and manufacturing on the other, things aren’t looking so good for Big Oil.

Credit: FutureEarth

I’m now thinking how a band of small green manufacturers could band together to get our sector’s national trade associations to cease their obstructionism of climate action. If you are a potential ally in this, please get in touch.

And for everyone: the upcoming elections are so important; the Congressional ones in particular—and likely more so than the Presidential race. Local elections are also key in getting really big changes started, like a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get corporations out of politics, and get a big step closer to “Government of the People, by the People, for the People.”

Thanks for reading. Don’t give up. We’re close.

— Harry from Keap 


P.S. if you’re in NYC, note that you can already request an absentee ballot for the June 23 primaries. Again, there are many appointments to vote on, not just the Presidency.

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