Laws, oversight and guidelines are essential to the success of sustainability initiatives, and responsible business owners can make a big difference by fighting for policies that protect the environment. Here are three pro-sustainable business policy items the American Sustainable Business Council is working on in conjunction with many other organizations — and information on how you can join the cause.
1. Speak out for clean water
American business depends on clean water, whether it’s for manufacturing, food production or the safe drinking water that employees and customers rely on. Unfortunately, past Supreme Court decisions have rendered Environmental Protection Agency's authority of streams and wetlands unclear.
This is a problem because the health of rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depend on the streams and wetlands where they begin. Streams and wetlands also provide many direct benefits to communities — they trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. They are also economic drivers because of their role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy and manufacturing.
The good news is that recently the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a new rule to clarify protection for streams and wetlands. The public comment period is open through July 12.
What’s at stake?
One-third of the nation’s waters still do not meet fishing and swimming standards. About 117 million customers and employees — one in three Americans — get drinking water from public systems that rely in part on streams. Protecting these waters is especially crucial as the nation’s populations grows and as consumers increasingly demand safer products.
What can you do?
Submit a comment in support of the proposed Clean Water Rule
Read about the benefits of the rule
Watch EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s overview of the Clean Water Rule
2. Stop rising sea levels
Speaking of water, one very real outcome of climate change is rising sea levels that literally could wash away entire coastal economies. Ninety thousand miles of coast surround the U.S., and businesses that depend on it face a dire future if nothing is done.
Leaders in Washington need to take some big policy steps to slow sea level rise. First, they need to control how much carbon is being put into the air. (See carbon pollution standards below.) Carbon pollution is the biggest contributor to climate change, which is responsible for rising sea levels. Second, they need to support investments in solar, wind and biomass energy to help transition our country to a clean energy economy. This investment will reduce carbon pollution and boost the economy with new jobs. We are making some small progress in both these areas, but not fast enough.
What’s at stake?
According to the third U.S. National Climate Assessment released in early May, global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. By 2100, it's projected to rise 1 to 4 feet. Thanks to recent analysis by Climate Central, we no longer have to wonder what our nation would look like if the sea level were to rise as projected.
We need our government to protect our natural resources and the economies that depend on them so that future generations of business owners will have the opportunity to succeed, as their forebears did.
What can you do?
Use this online tool to quickly send a letter to your elected officials to help sustain our coasts for future generations
Read the third U.S. National Climate Assessment
Learn about other ways you can join other business owners and engage in energy and environment policy issues
3. Reduce carbon pollution from power plants
Because 40 percent of all carbon emissions come from electricity generation, working to limit those emissions will be crucial to avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Coal-fired plants are the worst offenders (PDF). As a group, they are responsible for as much carbon dioxide as the entire transportation sector.
The EPA is taking on this issue. It announced updated carbon standards for new coal and natural gas-fired power plants in September. The comment period on those standards closed May 9, and the standards for existing power plants are expected June 2. The comment period for the rules on existing plants will be the next step in that process.
What’s at stake
The fossil fuel industry is pushing back hard, saying that consumers and businesses will be hurt by increased energy costs. But their estimates are overblown. Independent estimates put the high-end of the likely total cost increase at 10 percent — a worthwhile price for saving the planet.
The fossil fuel industry also points to inevitable job losses from a transition away from coal, but research (PDF) shows that three times as many jobs are created with equivalent investments in renewable energy projects.
What you can do
Tweet your support for these rules using the hashtag #ActOnClimate
Learn more about the standards for future power plants
Read the White House’s Climate Action Plan.