Exhaustive new law requires large businesses to reveal their dirty secrets: ‘It’s important for [the people] to know’

New legislation from California lawmakers will require businesses that operate in the state and make more than $1 billion in annual revenue to report all direct and indirect “planet-warming emissions,” in what the Associated Press is describing as “the most sweeping mandate of its kind in the nation.”

California Governor Gavin Newsome just signed the new law, which will affect more than 5,300 companies ranging from dirty energy companies to retail giants and more.

While the California Chamber of Commerce and some businesses opposed the legislation, there was also support for it from businesses such as Apple and Patagonia, both of which say they already disclose much of their emissions.

“While these emissions can be challenging to measure, they are essential to understanding the full range of a company’s climate impacts,” Apple said in an open letter.

Some private companies in California do not yet have systems in place to track their own planet-warming emissions. The new legislation aims to change that, forcing each company to take accountability for the amount of environmental damage it causes.

As history has shown, for-profit companies typically will not take meaningful action to address their impact on the planet if they believe that doing so comes at the expense of shareholders’ money. But new laws can push companies toward responsibility, which includes addressing rising temperatures, worsening pollution, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events. The new California law could be an important step in that direction.

The lawmakers behind the legislation have tried to pass it twice before, but the third time was the charm. Last year, the law passed the California Senate, but not the State Assembly.

“These companies are doing business in California,” said Democratic State Senator Scott Wiener, who spearheaded the legislation. “It’s important for Californians to know … what their carbon footprint is.”

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