By Richard Eidlin
Voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives and social enterprises are essential, but are not game changers by themselves. In addition, we need laws and regulations that guide our economy toward sound, long-term decision-making, with full recognition of social and environmental externalities. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more sustainable. Here are three important policies to consider supporting – and specific actions you can take.
1. End the Shutdown Showdown Over Austerity
The strong-arm political tactics over the budget, leading to the government shutdown and the possible debt default, is a massive distraction from the policies still needed to get the recovery on a more robust footing and the economy on a path toward a sustainable future.
While often portrayed as an even battle of wills, it is important to remember that the standoff results from a minority using its power to oppose the will – and the needs – of the majority. And while this minority may not win its stated goals, it has already damaged the economy by derailing useful policies.
What’s At Stake
A shutdown does not improve the deficit. Instead, it poses significant challenges for businesses. As many as 800,000 federal workers are being furloughed and a million more are working without pay. As a result, consumer demand is dropping by millions of dollars. Smaller businesses are most at risk, since they have fewer resources to weather a drop in demand and may have to cut back on staff in order to cope.
Businesses seeking loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) may not get support during a shutdown, making it even harder for them to expand and create more jobs. Not raising the debt ceiling, meanwhile, would lead to significant financial turmoil, including higher interest rates for consumers and businesses and even larger drops in demand.
Long term, much-needed investments in the economy have been completely moved off the agenda of policy makers. At best, this delay already means a more protracted and anemic recovery. The worst case scenario pushes us back into recession.
What You Can Do
- Call your Representative and Senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to pass a clean funding bill and raise the debt ceiling
- Contact your members online at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.
- Learn more about the impact on business policies of federal shutdown and default.
2. Time to Head To Washington
Many entrepreneurs and business owners who recognize that economic and environmental sustainability is a pathway to profitability, also recognize that government has an important role to play.
Out-of-date regulations and legislation can create uneven competition and actually stifle the innovation that can come from focusing on such business goals as sustainability and social responsibility.
That is why the American Sustainable Business Council is holding its Second Annual Business Summit for a Sustainable Economy, coming up later this month in Washington, DC. Business and organization leaders will meet with policymakers from the Obama administration, federal agencies, and members of Congress, to make the business case for why sustainable economic policies – from action on climate change to better business practices – are actually good for business and economic growth.
What’s At Stake
These policies will create jobs. For example, environmental regulations can add many times more to the economy than they take out; renewable energy investment creates three times as many jobs as fossil fuels for every unit of energy they generate; and good workplace practices like paid leave can save businesses money by reducing the costly problem of employee turnover, allowing them to hire and retain the best talent.
Unfortunately, these are not the policies that policymakers usually hear about from business policy groups. In fact, they hear most from groups protecting existing policy benefits for existing industries and opposing the potential innovation and job creation from up-dating older regulations. Policymakers need to hear from the rest of us.
What You Can Do
- Learn about the business policy summit
- Join ASBC and attend for a discounted rate
- Pass this information along to business owners you know
3. Getting Big Money Out of Campaigns
The Supreme Court opened its current session by looking at campaign finance laws that limit campaign contributions in federal campaigns. The case, McCutcheon v. FEC, asks the court to strike down the limit of $123,000 that individuals can give to all federal candidates, parties and committees combined. These limits have been upheld as constitutional in previous cases (such as Citizens United) before the Supreme Court, but many believe the court is now prepared to reverse those decisions.
Many business owners do not want more money in politics – an overwhelming 88 percent of small business owners have a negative view of money in politics, according to a recent poll. They recognize that unlimited spending by corporations or wealthy individuals who do not share the interests of the business community as a whole is a poor way to engage in policy debates, and one that runs contrary to the principles of a free market.
What’s at Stake
A decision against the limits will let more so-called big money into a political environment already dominated by massive spending by a small number of wealthy individuals and companies. This would accelerate the drowning out of all other voices, including business voices. Politicians, the media and the public will be left with a completely false sense that the business community is singular and monolithic in both the policies it supports and the hardline opposition tactics it employs.
That would make it much harder to pass the policies that many of us care about, and further damage the democratic process.
What You Can Do
- Add your business name to the business petition in support of maintaining these contribution limits
- To track the progress of the case, visit SCOTUS Blog
- Learn about Ben & Jerry’s “Get the Dough Out” campaign
Policy Points is produced by the American Sustainable Business Council. The editor is Richard Eidlin, Director – Public Policy and Business Engagement.