Beta Gamma Sigma hosts EPA panel discussion 

The discussion, led by Stan Meiburg, former acting deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, explored the intersecting roles of the EPA and business.

On Nov. 15, academic honor society Beta Gamma Sigma sponsored a panel discussion featuring Stan Meiburg, former acting deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2014 through 2017.

Along with Meiburg, the panel included Love School of Business executives-in-residence Eileen Claussen, the founder and president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and a former assistant secretary of state, and Mike Gannaway, a former vice president of VF Corp.

Meiburg began the discussion with a presentation on the stigmas surrounding the relationship between business and culture. While pop culture presents the relationship as one of Manichean dualism, where one is either for the EPA or for business “it’s a much more complex relationship than that,” Meiburg noted. The EPA has historically provided positive value for business and business has provided positive value for the EPA in return, he said.

To provide a sense of the relationship, Meiburg presented the ways the EPA provides value to business, including: certainty, as the EPA provides rules for businesses and thereby ensures competitors are complying; credibility, as the EPA’s stamp of approval earns businesses credibility with the public; creativity, as the EPA serves as a problem-solver for moving business forward; and crystal ball, as the EPA helps to identify emerging environmental challenges.

Meiburg presented six ways in which businesses provide value to the EPA in return: competence, as business is a source of technical and scientific information for the EPA; credibility, as the businesses help in negotiating the rule-making; creativity, as businesses are often the source of information when establishing faster, cheaper and smarter opportunities; compliance, as many businesses voluntarily comply with EPA standards, allowing the system to work; cash, as businesess are a great source of revenue for environmental solutions; and contracts, as the EPA relies on contractors to contribute tremendous amounts of environmental support.

After discussing the values in the relationships, Meiburg noted that with this tremendous amount of interaction between the EPA and business, it is inevitable for conflict to arise. He listed the most common reasons for conflict, including businesses externalizing the cost to the public, rather than internalizing to the business, and the EPA falling behind in science and losing credibility.

The discussion then opened up to Meiburg’s fellow panelists, Gannaway and Claussen. Claussen spoke primarily on the various categories of businesses the EPA encounters. These range from winners, who see the value in the regulation, and losers, who become upset with regulation. She also presented the difficulty in working with the groups of companies that form together, so that in order to move forward with a decision, each company must be on board.

Gannaway then introduced a business perspective, as a former VF Corp executive. He recalled the decision by VF Corp to take a stand on sustainability because of the growing importance to its partners, employees and consumers. The company recognized the need for a posture on sustainability and began looking to other experts in the area to develop a plan. Though there would be a large investment up front in terms of time and money, it would pay back over time and show an immediate return for the brand itself. “It’s a consumer-driven phenomenon,” said Gannaway. “Companies have said it is their responsibility to clean up the environment, and if I don’t, my brand suffers.”

Beta Gamma Sigma is an international honor society serving business programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).