3 policies the sustainable business community should support

Policy Matters

3 policies the sustainable business community should support

Oil rig image by iurii via Shutterstock.

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

We also need laws, oversight and guidelines to help shape our economy and planet to one that is just and sustainable.

With all businesses following the same rules, the competitive floor can be set at a level that protects the environment and ensures a quality and quantity of jobs consistent with human dignity. Individual business owners can make a big difference by advocating for policies that spur innovation that builds on such a platform.

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

1. End oil and gas subsidies

Fossil fuel incentives in the U.S. total $8 billion per year, more than five times the amount of subsidies for renewables. That discrepancy is much more than an indication of outmoded policy. It is both imposing additional costs on our future economy from pollution and climate change as well as putting the clean energy industry at a significant financial disadvantage. A clearer case of upside-down policy is hard to find.

What’s at stake?

Closing tax loopholes and subsidies to the oil industry would help Americans and American businesses. These subsidies don’t lower consumer prices and don’t encourage development. Instead, they waste tax dollars for both consumers and businesses.
According to Citizens for Tax Justice, the Big 5 oil companies increasingly are redirecting billions of dollars into dividends and stock purchases, and much of the rest of the increase in gasoline prices is due to speculation. Removing billions in tax breaks isn’t going to decrease their profits or increase prices at the pump. Instead, if we repurposed those subsidies for renewable and clean energy, imagine what a boost that could give to putting our energy economy on a better path for the future.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is spearheading an effort to end these subsidies with proposed legislation called Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2013.

What can you do?

Forward this letter to your senator and ask them to support ending oil and gas subsidies.

2. Make chemicals and cosmetics safer

Many consumers opt for safer chemicals in the products they buy. But by themselves, downstream users of chemicals make only a small dent in a huge problem.  A much larger problem is that businesses are often unable to identify the chemicals in their products, the hazards they may pose and whether safer alternatives are on the market. The result is a serious market barrier to the development and use of safer chemicals and products.

What’s at stake?

This month, Congress is expected to reintroduce the Safe Chemicals Act as well as the Safe Cosmetics Act. Both bills will increase transparency in the supply chain, allowing businesses to know what chemicals are in the materials and products they handle. This will open the floodgates for manufacturers and producers of safer alternatives, who want to respond to the demand from consumers.

Not only will consumers and workers benefit from the availability of safer chemicals, but the bills will also help advance more competitive, innovative and economically sustainable chemical industry in the U.S.

What can you do?

Sign ASBC's business letter supporting Safe Chemicals legislation.

Contact your senator and encourage them to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act and the Safe Cosmetics Act.

3. Support EPA and Department of Interior nominations

Recently President Barack Obama appointed two individuals to his administration worthy of support. Your calls and letters to your senator could make a difference.

Urge confirmation of Sally Jewell for Department of the Interior

Created in 1849, the U.S. Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources.

Sally Jewell was nominated by Obama to replace Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.  Most recently Jewell served as the CEO of Recreational Equipment Inc., or REI, a popular outdoor gear retailer. In a written statement following her nomination, REI said its CEO's "broad business background, community leadership, and her depth of knowledge of the range of issues managed by the Department of the Interior will be of significant value to the department and great service to the nation.”

Jewell can build on the excellent land stewardship work of outgoing Secretary Salazar. Under Salazar, the Interior Department has played a fundamental role in the defense of America’s natural resources, especially for renewable energy development permitting and stringent standards aimed at responsible oil and gas exploration.

Press for confirmation of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was born in 1970 in the wake of growing environmental concern, aimed at consolidating a wide range of federal research, monitoring, standard setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection. In its short history, the EPA has been home to 12 previous administrators; Gina McCarthy, if confirmed, will be lucky No. 13.

Prior to her nomination, McCarthy served as the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. In her 25-year career, she has worked at both the state and local levels on critical environmental issues and helped coordinate policies on economic growth, energy, transportation and the environment. At the EPA, she can continue this strong work and provide the strong leadership needed to address issues that will move the nation toward a more sustainable economy, including pushing forward on clean air, climate change mitigation, safer chemicals and green chemistry, and working collaboratively with the business community to solve environmental challenges.

What can you do?

Call and/or email your senator to support Sally Jewell. See this statement for more information.

Call and/or email your senator to support Gina McCarthy. See this statement for more information.

Oil rig image by iurii via Shutterstock