Business (In-)Action: The International Chamber of Commerce and Climate Change from Stockholm to Rio


  • Ann-Kristin Bergquist Department of Economic History, Uppsala University
  • Thomas David University of Lausanne



International Chamber of Commerce, United Nations, Climate Governance, Sustainability, Climate Delay


This paper engages with the literature that has looked at the historical response to climate change among industries positioned to have had a far-reaching impact on changing the course of the climate crisis. While much of the historical research in this domain has focused on the role of big oil companies, the utility industry and conservative think tanks in the manufacturing of doubt regarding climate science and opposing ambitions climate policies, our focus is on the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) – the world’s largest transnational business association. Unlike individual multinational corporations, the ICC developed a close ties and collaborations with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which made ICC positioned to influence international policy discussions. This study finds that the ICC developed a dual strategy, which set aside climate change as the focus for discussion and business action. One strategy, led by ICC Environment Committee, involved intense collaboration with the United Nations and developing a business agenda for sustainable development. At the same time, the creation of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (INC) in 1991, gave rise to a parallel strategy, led by ICC’s related oil companies. As this study finds, the ICC’s Energy Committee developed close ties to the Global Climate Coalition, a front group designed to combat the scientific evidence of climate change.  The paper concludes that the ICC was able to delay meaningful regulatory response to climate change the between 1988-1992 by forming a broad coalition of competing interests and collaborating with agencies established under the auspices of the United Nations.