Policy Matters

How to support clean energy, cosmetics reform and food labeling

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It’s the season of cherry blossoms and warmth in the nation’s Capitol but that doesn’t mean the acrimony of the 114th Congress has calmed down any. As Congress takes up legislation on clean power and bills that require transparency in food labeling and cosmetics, the partisan battles could be as pitched as ever.

The American Sustainable Business Council suggests that businesses keep a lookout for these three issues as they come before Congress and make their opinions known to lawmakers. These are issues that the ASBC is working on with many other organizations 

Push congress on clean energy

A new resolution introduced by Reps. John Delaney (D-MD) and Ben Lujan (D-NM), as well as Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) last month calls for a significant transition to clean energy. The so-called "50x30 resolution" would set a national goal of obtaining more than 50 percent of America’s electricity from clean and carbon-free sources by 2030. It would be one of the clearest Congressional statements to date about the importance of clean energy. The resolution had 103 co-sponsors in the House and 30 in the Senate when it was announced.

What’s at stake

The "50x30 resolution" recognizes a crucial fact: In order for our economy to grow, we must address the looming threat of climate change, which threatens businesses large and small. The best way to do that is to invest in clean energy, which will create more jobs than fossil fuels, lower energy bills, make us more energy-independent and ensure that the economy will be able to grow well into the future.

What you can do

Business people should call their senators and representatives to ask if they support the resolution. If they do, thank them and tell them that businesses like yours stand with them. If no, urge them to do so. Tell them what the business community truly wants.

Also, if you haven’t signed the statement in support of Clean Energy Victory Bonds, that’s another important step you can take to support the development of clean energy in the United States. 

Reform cosmetics law sooner rather than later

Think the government has strong rules on regulating cosmetics? Would it surprise you to learn that our cosmetics law hasn’t been updated since the 1930s? It’s true: The nation’s current cosmetics law, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, has not been revised since its passage in 1938.

What’s at stake

A number of problems need to be addressed in the old law. Among them are poor transparency requirements that can leave companies unclear about the safety of ingredients they use, as well as weak safety standards. All of this can depress consumer confidence, even for companies that hold themselves to a higher standard than the law requires. A recent poll from the Environmental Working Group found that most consumers are not aware that the government actually has very little power to regulate cosmetics for safety. 

What you can do

Businesses can help drive the shift to a cosmetics regulatory system that increases transparency requirements, improves safety and drives innovation in cleaner and safer personal care products. Ask your representatives and senators to support the Personal Care Products Safety Act

Require that 'natural' food means something

When you buy a food product labeled "natural," you may think you’re purchasing something healthy or unprocessed. In fact, when it comes to food labeling, the term "natural" is meaningless. To change that, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opened a public comment period on the use of the term "natural" on food labeling. It will end May 10.

What’s at stake

The definition the agency chooses significantly could affect the information that consumers have access to when making food-purchasing decisions and how companies involved in so-called "green washing" are able to compete. And it’s not small potatoes: Industry-wide sales for natural foods in 2014 reached $53.5 billion, up 53 percent from five years before. One study suggested that every $1 billion spent on natural and organic foods creates about 28,000 jobs.

Food companies already label products made with peanuts, sugar and other ingredients, so we know they are accustomed to labeling. The real costs come when responsible businesses that make truly natural products cannot compete, or if consumer confidence suffers from the current lack of a definition for "natural."

What you can do

The best, and most rational, definition of "natural" would exclude: all foods that use chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides; foods that are genetically modified; foods that use artificial ingredients; and foods that have been significantly processed. Make sure the FDA hears that your business wants truly "natural" labeling before the comment period ends.