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

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) 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to give the Environmental Protection Agency the power to identify and regulate dangerous chemicals— is way out of date and simply does not work.

Leading companies from electronics manufacturers to health care providers are highly motivated to identify and use safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. Recent polling by ASBC confirms that today's business leaders are concerned about the health and business impacts that could arise if the products they use or sell contain toxic chemicals, as well as the toxic chemical exposures that may occur as a result of their supply chains.

By themselves, downstream users of chemicals can only make but a small dent in a huge problem. Due to a lack of data, businesses are often unable to identify the chemicals in their products, what 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

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 was just introduced by Sens. Lautenberg and Gillibrand. This is great news, since it would level the playing field for all chemical manufacturers, expand markets for safer and greener products, create a more predictable regulatory system, and reduce the costs and risks, especially product liability, associated with managing toxic chemicals in products across supply chains. Anyone who is in favor of safe innovation for the chemical industry should lend their support.

What you can do

  • Call your Senators and Congressperson, to urge them to support the Safe Chemicals Act.
  • Sign the business letter calling on Congress to modernize chemical laws.
  • Learn more about efforts to make chemicals safer.

2) Fight for taxes

If you’re a small business owner, brand new polling says that you are likely to be strongly against corporate tax loopholes. See, you’re not the only one.

In fact, by a margin of two-to-one, small business owners prefer closing corporate tax loopholes to cutting government programs as priorities for the federal budget. And 64 percent are against the current corporate tax rules, which let big companies shift profits overseas and defer their U.S. taxes indefinitely.

This is from new polling commissioned by the Main Street Alliance and the American Sustainable Business Council. That survey also found that a whopping 85 percent of small business owners are against the tax change proposed by coalitions of large corporations called a territorial system. This approach has also been called tax havens on steroids, since it would grant a permanent tax holiday on foreign earnings by U.S. companies.

What’s at stake

According to J.P. Morgan Securities, offshore untaxed profits have exploded to an estimated $1.7 trillion. Moving to the permanent tax holiday or territorial system would cost a $130 billion over ten years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation.

Meanwhile, corporate tax reform has become a top priority inside the beltway of DC. Many in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have expressed interest and even support of a territorial tax system. The White House is reportedly divided on the subject. It’s time for responsible business people to speak out and demand a stop to special tax incentives for shipping jobs and profits overseas.

What you can do

3) Push for safer cosmetics

The cosmetics industry currently regulates itself. So how’s that going?

With self-regulation, 89 percent of all ingredients in cosmetics have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution. While the European Union has banned over 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics in the past 10 years, the U. S. cosmetic industry has banned or restricted only 11. This means that businesses are unable to discern the details about the products they are selling, while consumers and workers are dealing with the health and safety issues.

Elected officials are finally taking up the call, proposing reform of these policies that date back to 1938. In March, Rep. Janice Schakowsky introduced H.R. Bill 1359 as an amendment to title VI of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). These new rules for safe use of chemicals would revolutionize current policies in the cosmetics industry and benefit businesses, workers, and consumers.

What’s at stake

H.R. 1359  would open new doors for green chemistry, while also granting business owners the right to know about the products they are using. It would require suppliers, such as Exxon Mobil and fragrance companies, to disclose their ingredients. It would result in greater transparency, confidence in the industry, and a “level playing-field” for companies with safer and smarter practices. The legislation itself would allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement several vital new practices, that would protect manufacturers and consumers alike with specific labeling, reporting and oversight.

All of these measures will allow safer companies to thrive while ensuring a more transparent industry that works for the business, the consumer, and the workers.

What you can do

  • Contact your governor and state legislators to urge them to support the passing of H.R. Bill 1359.
  • Learn more about the benefits of the Safer Cosmetics Act.
  • Take action and sign a business letter to legislators to ensure the passage of this vital legislation.
Policy Points is produced by the American Sustainable Business Council. The editor is Richard Eidlin, Director – Public Policy and Business Engagement.

[image credit: The Style PA: Flickr cc]

American Sustainable Business Council headshotAmerican Sustainable Business Council

The <a href="http://asbcouncil.org">American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC)</a> 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 Vice President - Public Policy and Business Engagement.

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