3p Contributor: American Sustainable Business Council

American Sustainable Business Council The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) is a network of companies and business associations. Its column, Policy Points, identifies public policies where a business voice, grounded in principles of innovation, fairness and environmental stewardship, can make an essential difference in the advocacy process. The goal is to arm readers with information and specific actions to take. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more green and sustainable. The column editor is Richard Eidlin, ASBC's Director - Public Policy and Business Engagement.

Recent Articles

Policy Points: Cut Pollution, Move to Safer Chemicals and Keep Our Water Clean

The crew of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s vessel Elizabeth work to clear storm debris from the protected Dismal Swamp Canal in Virginia.

The crew of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s vessel Elizabeth work to clear storm debris from the protected Dismal Swamp Canal in Virginia.

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 changes to help make the economy more sustainable.

A sustainable economy will depend on policies that will help advance change on a societal level.  Here are three important policies that will help – and specific actions you can take.

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Policy Points: Spilling Light on Poor Toxic Chemicals Regulations

American Sustainable Business Council
| Wednesday March 12th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Members of the West Virginia National Guard draw water samples to determine levels of contamination remaining in local water supply during Operation Elk River Spill.

Members of the West Virginia National Guard draw water samples to determine levels of contamination remaining in local water supply during Operation Elk River Spill.

By Bryan McGannon

If you needed a reason to take chemical reform seriously, you got it in the form of the Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia in January. Besides the human cost, which left many communities without running water for days and made residents sick from the chemicals, there were massive business and economic impacts. According to the Center for Business and Economic Research at Marshall University, businesses in the Charleston, W.Va. area lost about $61 million (PDF) in just the first week after the spill.

Or perhaps we can look to North Carolina and the massive spill that dumped nearly 40,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River on Feb. 2, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic contaminants such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

These accidents shine a spotlight on the potential for damage from poorly regulated toxic chemicals. But, in fact, they only hint at how poor current regulations really are for these chemicals.

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Policy Points: Business Policies For a Sustainable Economy

American Sustainable Business Council
| Friday February 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Economy in Scrabble TilesBy 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 changes to help make the economy more sustainable.

A sustainable economy will depend on policies that will help advance change on a societal level.  Here are three important policies that will help–and specific actions you can take.

1. A Sustainable Future for Retirement

Experts say the typical worker approaching retirement needs about $250,000 in a 401(k). Most don’t come close. The average is closer to $98,000–only a bit more than a third of the recommended amount. This is only one aspect of the growing retirement crisis facing our economy and our nation. Social Security expects future shortfalls since more workers are collecting benefits while fewer are paying in; the recent financial crisis forced many workers to collect early on 401(k) plans; and of course, state pension programs are going underfunded. Seventy-five million Americans do not have a retirement plan, and 50 percent of all Americans have less than $10,000 in savings.

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Policy Points: If Properly Managed, (Federal) Debt is Good

American Sustainable Business Council
| Wednesday January 15th, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Richard Eidlin

Department of TreasurySome policymakers are concerned about the dangers of adding to the national debt and don’t want to raise the debt ceiling, which the nation will hit on Feb. 7. They say it’s just not sustainable.

Surely, there’s such a thing as too much debt, and there are some things for which we shouldn’t borrow. But debt is not always bad. It all depends on what it is used for and how it is managed. If the reasons and the goals are sound, debt can be good — really good.

This is something business owners understand particularly well. For a business, the typical goal is increased profits down the road. But what are the right goals for federal debt?

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Policy Points: Policies for a Sustainable Workforce

American Sustainable Business Council
| Wednesday December 11th, 2013 | 0 Comments

workersBy 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 changes to help make the economy more sustainable.

A sustainable economy will depend on a sustainable workforce, one that is educated, adequately compensated and valued humanely. Here are three important policies that will help – and specific actions you can take.

1. Make Earned Sick Days the Law

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Policy Points: The Argument for Increasing the Minimum Wage

American Sustainable Business Council
| Tuesday November 12th, 2013 | 0 Comments

minimum wageBy David Bolotsky

I don’t like labels, but let’s see if you can place my opinions somewhere on the political left-right spectrum. I’m in favor of self-reliance. So I’m against businesses relying on government to provide unnecessary tax transfers. And I’m for fiscal responsibility. It’s fiscally irresponsible to have taxpayers compelled to subsidize the most basic necessities of workers at for-profit companies.

Sounds fairly conservative, doesn’t it? Yet these positions are not common among many conservatives today. In fact, by refusing to allow the minimum wage to rise to reasonable levels (reasonable in terms of the cost of living and in terms of our definition of poverty), they’re defeating some of the core principles of conservatism. Why should taxpayers subsidize an employer’s poverty wages with Medicaid, food stamps and tax breaks? In the spirit of Henry Ford, shouldn’t we want our workers to be able to afford our products and services?

We employ hundreds of entry-level customer service and warehouse workers at Uncommon Goods. And I’m in favor of government making it mandatory for businesses like mine to pay them a wage they can live on.  Unfortunately, today’s $7.25 minimum wage is worth a third less than the minimum wage of 1968 – 45 years ago.

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Policy Points: Renewable Chemicals Industry Reaches Economic Tipping Point

American Sustainable Business Council
| Wednesday September 18th, 2013 | 0 Comments

test tubeBy Corinne Young

Chemicals are not simply the province of scientists in a lab. We are all surrounded by chemical products – they are in our homes, workplaces and every aspect of the environment. Whether it is the container in which food is stored, polymers and fibers for lightweight cars, personal care products we put on our bodies, polyesters and nylons in clothes we wear or the latent pesticides once used to protect crops – chemicals are ubiquitous and unavoidable.

In recent years, the nascent, yet fast-growing renewable chemical industry has already proved we can make higher performing, safer chemicals cost competitively and sustainably. Renewable chemicals are derived from a variety of bio-based feedstocks and can offer significant performance, health and environmental benefits. Beyond that, renewable chemicals offer critical economic promise, particularly as other manufacturing sectors decline and the U.S seeks to transform its economic capacity in a global innovation and low carbon market.

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Policy Points: 3 Progressive Initiatives That Are Good For Businesses

main st wall stBy 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. A Stronger Minimum Wage is Good for Business

Last month marked the fourth year without an increase in the federal minimum wage. The current $7.25 federal minimum wage is lower than it was in 1956 ($8.58, adjusted for inflation). Today’s minimum wage workers have far less buying power than their counterparts did in 1968 when the minimum wage was at its highest value of $10.74, adjusted for inflation

What’s at Stake

With the Main Street economy still struggling, raising the minimum wage makes good business sense. Workers are also customers. Increasing the minimum wage will boost sales at local businesses as workers buy needed goods and services they could not afford before. Businesses also see cost savings from lower employee turnover and benefit from increased productivity, product quality and customer satisfaction. Increasing the minimum wage will also reduce the strain on our social safety net caused by inadequate wages.

A recent national poll shows that 67 percent of small business owners support increasing the federal minimum wage and adjusting it yearly to keep pace with the cost of living. The most rigorous studies of the impact of actual minimum wage increases show they do not cause job loss – whether during periods of economic growth or during recessions.

What You Can Do

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Policy Points: 3 Policies You Should Support to Make the Economy More Sustainable

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVoluntary 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.

To B or not to B (a Benefit Corporation)

While most companies focus on putting profits first – in some cases, even being required by law to do so – Benefit Corporations are required to create benefits for society as well as shareholders. This can include volunteering in the community or contributing to sustainable development.

Benefit Corporation legislation has passed in more than a dozen states and is currently being considered in several more. The legislation allows corporations to put their social mission right into their corporate structure. Instead of being registered as a C Corp or LLC, companies can register as Benefit Corporations, giving them the freedom to consider the social and environmental impact of their activities in addition to the financial bottom line. It costs states nothing and is totally voluntary for companies.

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Policy Points: Make Cosmetics Safe and Support Industry Innovation

lipstickBy Mary Kearns

When consumers go to the store, they tend to assume the products they buy are safe. They trust that the labels “organic” and “all-natural” are true. After all, government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor the food that is grown, manufactured, and sold in this country. So most consumers think that this also applies to the cosmetics they buy. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

What most consumers do not know is that the current law guiding the manufacture of cosmetics dates back to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 – enacted 75 years ago! This legislation granted oversight of cosmetics safety to the cosmetics industry itself, meaning that the FDA has almost no authority. While this may have been a good idea in 1938, a lot has changed in the past 75 years. Over 80,000 chemicals and nano-particles have been introduced into the consumer market, and the industry provides very little information on the safety of these ingredients for use in personal care products.

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Policy Points: Let’s Push Lawmakers for Better Chemicals, Cosmetics and Corporate Taxes

cosmeticsVoluntary 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) Tsk, Tsk. Why is TSCA reform taking so long?

The main federal law that is supposed to ensure the safety of chemicals has not changed in 34 years. The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)—intended to give the Environmental Protection Agency the power to identify and regulate dangerous chemicals— is way out of date and simply does not work.

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Policy Points: Simple Tax Change Will End Online Retailer Favoritism

American Sustainable Business Council
| Wednesday March 13th, 2013 | 1 Comment

taxBy Jeff Milchen

Put executives from large chain retailers together in a room with independent store owners and they’re unlikely to find much common ground on government business policy.  But there’s one issue they’ll surely agree on: current tax policy gives Amazon and other online megastores an unfair, anti-competitive advantage. Representatives of both independents and chains agree a long-overdue update to tax laws will fix the problem and create a level playing field.

From sole-proprietorships to Walmart, storefront businesses in 45 states are required to collect state taxes on retail sales, ranging from about 3 percent to more than 7 percent. In most localities, local and/or county taxes are added to the state’s take, yielding a total tax averaging more than 7 percent and exceeding 11 percent in some locations.

Meanwhile, online retailers are exempted from the responsibility of collecting sales tax when selling across state lines. The exemption was created by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued in 1992–before online retailing existed.

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Policy Points: Healthcare, Elections, and Tax Changes That Help 3BL Businesses

American Sustainable Business Council
| Monday February 18th, 2013 | 0 Comments

financeVoluntary 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:

Small business wins with expanded Medicaid

Medicaid is the largest source of funding for health-related and medical services for low-income persons in the United States. Battles are currently raging in many states over whether to expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Governors and state officials opposing the expansion cite cost as their primary reason. But there are small business cost factors associated with not expanding Medicaid that are important to consider.

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Policy Points: New Rules for a New Economy

American Sustainable Business Council

manufacturingBy Jeffrey Hollender

Consider this common scenario: raw materials are extracted from the earth, transported to a processing facility and with the use of various chemicals and human labor, are transformed into a product. This product is transported again, to a store, where it is sold.  You buy it, and assume you are paying a fair price because all the costs to produce, transport and sell the product are included in the price you pay.

Wrong! Only some of the costs are included in the price – the rest are actually born by society as a whole.

If we look more carefully at everything that happened to get our product to the marketplace, we see a host of costs not accounted for in the price tag. For example, perhaps the raw materials were mined in a way that forever altered the landscape or geology at the site. Or, consider the pollution costs due to fossil-fuel-based manufacturing and transportation. And think about the employees at the store, who may be paid minimum part-time wages, which they need to supplement with government assistance for food or healthcare.

Few consumers are aware that the prices they pay for most products and services are artificially low and don’t reflect the full cost.

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Policy Points: Three Vital Policies That Need Your Support

American Sustainable Business Council
| Wednesday December 12th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Today we start a new column on policy issues by the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC).

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. This column will arm readers with information and specific actions to take. 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.

Increase local public funding by making sales tax collection fairer for Main Street retailers

State tax policy is currently hurting responsible businesses and their communities. In states that have retail sales taxes, there is an exemption for online and catalog retailers located elsewhere. This deprives local communities of much needed revenue for schools and public infrastructure improvements. The exemption also puts brick and mortar Main Street businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

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