American small business owners. When it comes to politics, they’re portrayed as mythic heroes of the American economy, the salt-of-the-earth “mom and pops,” the real job creators, a constituency to be catered to, a force to be reckoned with. Like apple pie. And conventional wisdom would have it that this powerful, Republican-leaning slice of the electorate would fall in with the far-right when it comes to climate attitudes.

But a June 2014 survey of small business owners across the US conducted by the American Sustainable Business Council this month found that the nation’s local, bedrock employers support action on climate change.

And significantly, these views cut across party lines. A plurality of those surveyed (43 percent) self-identified as either Republican or Republican-leaning Independent. These scientific survey results counter the argument that the business community generally resists action on climate change. It found the opposite, with small business owners particularly concerned about climate change’s impact on their bottom line.

The national phone survey of 555 owners of small businesses (2 to 99 employees) found that clear majorities of small business owners are concerned about how climate change will affect their companies, including its impact on energy costs, health care costs and the infrastructure they depend on.

  • In fact, survey respondents voiced strong support for government action to address climate change, specifically, efforts to limit carbon pollution from power plants.

    Here are some more details:

    • Eighty-seven percent (87 percent) of business owners named one or more consequences of climate change as potentially harmful to their businesses. A majority (53 percent) said they were concerned about higher energy costs, 48 percent cited costs stemming from power outages due to stress on the power grid, and 37 percent cited a rise in health care costs.
    • Fifty-seven percent (57 percent) of businesses say they are concerned about carbon pollution in particular and 53 percent are concerned about climate change in general. No matter which phrase is used, “carbon pollution” or “climate charge,” a majority of small business owners are concerned about the future impact on their businesses. There is a partisan divide evident when it comes to level of concern, but decent numbers of more conservative business owners are worried. An overwhelming 82 percent of Democratic business owners express concern about climate change in general. This concern is shared by 40 percent of Republicans and half (50 percent) of Independents.
    • Regardless of political affiliation, a majority of small business owners believe that government has a role in regulating power plant pollution. A majority (55 percent) of Republican small business owners agree that government regulation is needed to reduce carbon emissions by power plants. Even larger majorities (65 percent) of Independents and (81 percent) of Democrats agree. Only 29 percent think power plants should be left to regulate themselves.
    • Not surprisingly, fifty-seven percent (57 percent) of businesses said that the biggest carbon emitters, specifically power plants, should make the biggest reductions in carbon emissions and bear most of the costs of reduction efforts, instead of requiring all businesses to cut their emissions by the same percentage.
    • Half of surveyed businesses support tighter EPA limits on carbon emissions. Only 28 percent oppose them.
    • Fifty-three percent (53 percent) of companies think extreme weather has, or will have, negative impact on their businesses. One in five has already been hurt. Among larger companies (20 – 99 employees), 71 percent think extreme weather has, or could have, negative impact, and only 21 percent think it won’t.
    • A plurality (39 percent) of businesses said they would prefer to accept a 10 percent increase in energy costs rather than accept the consequences of climate change. A third of respondents were unable or unwilling to answer; but only 25 percent said they would rather suffer the consequences of climate change than pay 10 percent more.

    How many times have you heard somebody say that they just can’t support policy to cut pollution because they don’t want to hurt small businesses? Well, with small businesses anticipating the “hurt” of climate change, perhaps the days are over when elected officials could use them as their “out” for stalling on climate solutions.