Today, Skanska USA announced that it has resigned as a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest of the organization's backing of the American High-Performance Building Coalition (AHPBC), which is lobbying against the use of LEED in government projects and on the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill.
"Sustainability is one of Skanska's core values. And we will not be a part of an organization that supports the American High-Performance Building Coalition, which harbors the American Chemistry Council and opposes the implementation of a new, stronger LEED certification program," Michael McNally, Skanska USA CEO and president wrote in a blog post about its resignation. In the construction and development company's release, it notes that Skanska employees recently met with Chamber leadership and asked it to remove its support from the AHPBC's position regarding LEED. Elaborating on the connection with the pending Shaheen-Portman bill in an editorial for The Washington Post, McNally noted that "opponents are now trying to hold a popular energy bill hostage by proposing language that would effectively ban the use of LEED by the federal government unless the update is change to remove the offending chemistry provisions. Let's be clear: What the chemical industry and its cronies want is not a new standard that will improve energy efficiency and green building programs. What they want is a standard they can manipulate and weaken. They are putting their bottom lines first and social responsibility second."
As previously reported, the AHPBC was formed in July 2012 with a focus promoting building rating systems based on ANSI or ISO-type processes. At the time, the organization stated that it was not focused on undermining the objectives of green construction or a specific system such as LEED. However, the organization issued a statement last week expressing disappointment in the recent approval of LEED v4 by USGBC member ballot vote. "We believe USGBC moved prematurely to ballot, not having addressed or meaningfully considered the numerous substantial technical comments many stakeholders submitted during the comment process," it noted. When reached for comment regarding Skanska's Chamber resignation, Scott Openshaw of the American Chemistry Council, a member company of the AHPBC, and a media contact for the AHPBC, noted that "the AHPBC does not comment on the membership decisions of members of other organizations."
As for the USGBC, the organzization's senior vice president of international policy and law Roger Platt issued the following statement: "Skanska, like an increasing number of leadership firms in the building and manufacturing industries, has been frustrated by the recent attempts to create false political controversy over our voluntary, market-based LEED green building rating system. There is no controversy in the market. The building supply chain has become increasingly green and global. Skanska stands out as an innovator on an international scale and its guiding principles around sustainability are not only commendable, they are fundamental to helping shape green building practices globally."
Whether other Chamber members will follow Skanska's lead is up in the air, but McNally left the door open for further discussion on the issue. "Skanska invites the Chamber and the AHPBC to a public discussion in any forum of the issues at stake, including LEED's consensus-based voting process, the value of green building to the nation's economy, and the potential health benefits of building with materials resulting from green chemistry," he wrote in the company's release.