The high-profile departures from the US Chamber because of its extremist stance on climate, the strong criticism from its own former members and the Chamber's tone-deaf response to the situation are contributing to reputational damage that is hurting the organization's credibility.
But don't take my word for it. Others are making the same observation.
Fortune Magazine Contributing Editor Marc Gunther noted in a piece called "The U.S. Chamber's climate blunders" that:
"What matters is that the chamber can't any longer pretend to be the voice of business on the climate change issue-the biggest business controversy of the decade. Now that's embarassing."
A sentiment echoed today by Business Week, which asked the question: "Does the U.S. Chamber Speak for Big Business?", and then answered it with the sub-headline:
"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's aggressive opposition to climate change legislation is costing it credibility, clout-and members."
Now PRWeek has weighed in with "Resignations create reputation issues for Chamber," and offers the following quote from Michael Kempner, President and CEO of highly-respected pr firm MWW Group:
"No one denies [the US Chamber] the right to their viewpoint and their pro-business agenda," noted Kempner. "But, when their pro-business agenda begins to line up with the fringe of the Republican Party versus the mainstream of the Republican Party, they put themselves in the position of becoming irrelevant."
Earlier today, Mr. Donohue told reporters he doesn't mind being attacked. "Bring 'em on!" he says. Given that this has largely been a saga of self-inflicted wounds (Mr. Donohue's attempts to blame a vast environmental conspiracy notwithstanding), it'll be interesting to see what the Chamber does to itself next.
UPDATE: I missed this at first, but on October 6th Newsweek published a column called "At Chamber of Commerce, Member Exodus on Climate Issue a Big PR Problem." It quoted DC PR firm Ein Communications founder Marina Ein saying
"It's devastating...I suspect that all of the [chamber] membership is asking itself at this point, Who's leading us, and why aren't more efforts being made to find consensus."
Running tab of the Chamber's climate credibility crisis:
Quit US Chamber Board over climate: Nike.
Learn more at WhoDoestheChamberRepresent.org?
* UPDATE 11/12/09: Levi-Strauss informed us that the company did not leave the US Chamber over climate concerns, as Greenwire had reported.