DC Influencer Q&A: David Yarnold, executive director, Environmental Defense Fund

David Yarnold, executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund, speaks to Jaimy Lee about the wide- reaching influence of partnerships

What are you working on in Washington now?

Yarnold: We have a very ambitious climate agenda and probably the largest team of any NGO working in Washington on climate legislation. We're one of the cofounders of the US Cap Coalition that helped write the blueprint that was embedded in the Waxley-Markey climate legislation. We're very active partners in the US Climate Action Partnership Coalition. We live and breathe climate.

What role do these types of partnerships play in furthering your agenda and getting your messages out?

Yarnold: On climate legislation, these partnerships have been critical because the business voice has to be at the table. When you can help people see a profit motive in doing right by the environment, they act much more quickly and efficiently.

How has the Environmental Defense Fund worked with Wal-Mart in the past. Why is this particular working partnership so vital?

Yarnold: Wal-Mart has helped create a race to the top. Because of Wal-Mart's scale, its competitors have to beat it and their suppliers want to partner with them. We are constantly talking to companies about new partnerships. We want to make sure that our partnerships are truly transformational.

Which audiences are currently most relevant for your organization?

Yarnold: It depends on the issue. Any American that wants to see a new clean-energy economy and to tell a senator that they believe in that is part of our target audience.

Businesses are a target audience on climate legislation. On fisheries, that may be a more discreet audience. Those may be regional. On river restoration, a very important audience for us recently has been policymakers in California and Californians who treasure the Bay-Delta ecosystem.

We don't always speak to a mass audience. Sometimes we're highly targeted to particular states or Congressional districts or constituencies.

How is the organization using social media sites like Twitter?

Yarnold: We use it to monitor the national conversation. We promote our work [and] thought leaders. We've done live tweeting from Congressional hearings and from floor debates. Our president, Fred Krupp, tweets daily. So do a couple of our program VPs.

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