3 must-watch policy fights in sustainable business

Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and environmental policy are essential, but not complete solutions by themselves.

We also need laws, oversight and guidelines to set the entire competitive floor at a level that protects the environment and ensures a quality and quantity of jobs consistent with human dignity. Such a platform will unleash even more innovation, but in directions that are sustainable.

Responsible and sustainably-focused business owners can make a big difference in policy fights by countering what policymakers hear from some in the traditional business community.

Here are three pro-sustainable business policy items the American Sustainable Business Council is working on in conjunction with many other organizations.

Renewable energy standards under attack

Renewable Portfolio Standards are state mandates that require utilities to produce a certain amount of energy from renewable sources within a specific time frame, such as wind, solar and biofuel. The standards vary from state to state. North Carolina for example, mandates 12.5 percent clean energy production by 2021, while Colorado calls for 30 percent by 2020. Regardless of the specific targets, the value of an RPS is in providing a clear policy signal to investors, manufacturers and technology companies that the market for renewable energy will grow.

What's at stake?

Despite widespread public support, renewable energy standards are under attack in numerous states, often at the behest of oil-industry-funded interest groups. Recently, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group supported by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers, among others, introduced the "Electricity Freedom Act." This piece of so-called "model legislation" would repeal a state's RPS, meaning utilities no longer would need to include renewable energy in their mix and those energy sources would lose a significant market foothold. That would kill jobs and weaken these states' economies.

The legislation has been introduced in 11 states this year. In Kansas, efforts to repeal the state's RPS have failed. Despite an earlier win in a North Carolina House committee, which failed to pass an anti-RPS bill, the state's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard still isn't safe in this legislative session. In Ohio, efforts are underway to repeal the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard.

Last year, ALEC-backed efforts to weaken or repeal an RPS were introduced in 19 states, and passed in Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginia.

What can you do?

North Carolina residents can sign this business petition. Ohio residents can sign this business petition. Learn more here.

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Wind power image by “Caveman Chuck” Coker via Compfight cc.