Policy Matters

3 sustainable actions your business can take now

ShutterstockGoncharuk Maksim
Chemical reform, climate change and clean water need a business voice.

Successful sustainability initiatives often depend on strong laws, oversight and guidelines. Leaders in the business world can help make good initiatives come to fruition by fighting for policies that protect the environment.

From chemical reform to climate change to clean water, here are three pro-sustainable business policies the American Sustainable Business Council is working on in conjunction with many other organizations.

1. Sign on to chemical reform

The nation’s law on toxic chemical regulation the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) never has been updated since the bill was passed in 1976. As a result the EPA has only been able to mandate testing on 200 chemicals.

Recent legislation introduced in both the House and the Senate is designed to update the rules. However, each has a number of flaws. The Senate bill would limit how much time the EPA could spend reviewing chemicals for safety. It also would make it harder for the government to intercept hazardous chemicals in imported products. And it would prevent states from taking action on their own, in cases when the EPA fails to act. The House bill addresses many of these issues, but excludes ample resources for EPA to test as many chemicals as may be needed.

What’s at stake

While it is heartening to see reforms moving through Congress, there’s a real danger that the final bill will not be strong enough to protect consumers, employees and businesses from toxic chemicals.

What you can do

Business people need to speak up in favor of strong reform. Add your business voice to those of Seventh Generation, Naturepedic, Earth Friendly Products, and the other members of the Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition.

2. Address climate change

Late last year, after weeks of negotiations, nearly 200 nations agreed to a groundbreaking climate change deal at the COP21 conference in Paris. Business was out in full force, pushing for an agreement strong enough to avoid the economic damage climate change could cause. In fact, the deal set new targets, but leaves to countries to figure out on their own how to achieve them.

For the U.S. and many countries, a carbon tax would be the simplest and most efficient way to cut emissions. It also would be the most business-friendly. A tax set at a high enough rate will incentivize a major shift in our energy mix, while the revenues can be used to cut taxes on consumers and businesses, invest in infrastructure rebuilding projects and support fossil fuel-dependent communities transitioning into the new energy economy. Such steps have yielded significant success in places such as British Columbia.

What's at stake

Failure to address climate change should not be an option, but it is a possibility. The longer we wait, the harder — and more costly — it will be. The Paris Agreement provides targets to aim for, but if political will cannot be rallied, all businesses will suffer the consequences. As a consensus builds around a carbon tax, business people need to demand it.

What you can do

Your business can show support for a carbon tax.

3. Preserve clean water

Recently President Barack Obama issued a vetoblocking a move by some in Congress to overturn the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. This thwarts for now attempts in Congress to block the rule, which clarifies what kind of upstream headwaters EPA can protect. However, it still faces several lawsuits.

What’s at stake

Opponents will continue to look for ways to block the rule, whether in legislative form or continuing legal battles. Without this rule, a crucial input into many products could be threatened, and the health of consumers and workers would be at risk. Small business owners are well aware of the threat. National, scientific polling of small business owners found that 71 percent think that clean water protections were necessary for economic growth. Eighty percent support efforts to regulate upstream headwaters, as the Clean Water Rule would do.

What you can do

Show your business’ support  for the Clean Water Rule.