Why Do Apple and Nike Support Climate Change Legislation?

Would Apple and Nike lose or benefit from cap and trade?


The Journal has a somewhat odd editorial today on Apple and Nike's recent decisions to resign from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the group's opposition to cap and trade. The editorial gives some persuasive reasons why Apple and Nike would not be hurt much by cap and trade (much of their manufacturing is done overseas) but then concludes that successful climate change reform actually would come back to bite them:

Yet even this self-interested calculation is likely to be short-sighted for both companies. Since climate change is a global issue, green activists won't stop their carbon pursuit at the U.S. border. It wouldn't be long after cap and trade passed in the U.S. that Nike and Apple were pressured to move their manufacturing out of countries that haven't signed Kyoto II. That would threaten their production lines and cost structure, with potential damage to sales and competitiveness.

The Journal uses this argument to support the conclusion that Apple and Nike are making mistakes, but I'm not sure that follows.

Apple and Nike are likely making the political calculation that some form of regulation—be it cap and trade, or a tax—is inevitable. Yes, it is correct that these actions will hurt their sales, especially if there is trade action on the part of the U.S. against China and Vietnam. But Apple and Nike know they can absorb these losses better than their rivals. The much-bigger loss, however, would be to their brands if they are seen as the "big evil corporations" who helped the efforts to block the legislation.

So from the standpoint of a long-term branding strategy, it seems reasonable to me that Apple and Nike would each make the calculation that shoring up their reputation with green and "progressive" customers will help their sales more. That makes a lot more sense if you view climate change legislation as an inevitability.

Of course, I can't read the minds of CEOs, so I could be wrong. What do you think?