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 can do that:
What’s at stake: While D.C.’s bill would be the strongest paid leave plan in the country, the city wouldn’t be the first to pass this kind of program; several states have already passed paid leave laws. And while those laws vary, there is no indication at this point that they have been a burden on businesses. In fact, a study of California’s law found that not only had businesses not been hurt, but both they and their employees were also reporting positive effects. That’s because when employees are able to take paid leave, they’re less stressed at work and are able to come back feeling refreshed, both of which are good news for employee efficiency and thus the bottom line.
What you can do: While states and localities continue to move forward on paid leave, action in Congress still represents the best possible option. The United States is the only developed nation without guaranteed paid leave for all workers; that puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Add your business voice in support of national paid leave legislation.
Congress now has at least 90 days to review the deal, meaning a vote will not come until January at the earliest. Because of earlier votes to give the president “fast track” authority, the vote will be held with limited debate and no opportunity for amendments to the deal.
What’s at stake: Done right, trade deals like this can be a boon for the American, and global, economy. By raising labor or environmental standards in other countries, we can see strong movement toward a more sustainable economy, while protecting businesses here in the United States that already play by stricter rules. Done wrong, however, trade deals can weaken the American economy, shipping jobs overseas and putting businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared to those in nations with weaker standards.
What you can do: President Barack Obama has said he wants a final TPP to include stronger labor and environmental standards. As Congress begins its review period, it’s crucial that they ensure this deal is implemented in the right way. Tell Congress to make sure this deal raises standards, not lowers them.
What’s at stake: Despite claims that the Citizens United decision – which allowed businesses to spend unlimited amounts on elections – will be a positive thing, many small- and mid-sized businesses do not want to devote resources to campaign contributions, instead focusing on growing their businesses.
Meanwhile, those business interests that do put up lots of cash often do not represent the full range of views of most American business owners. That leads to policy action or inaction that actually hurts the bulk of the business community. And, by raising the appearance of corruption, this spending discourages business people with differing opinions from participating in the process – ultimately making it harder to achieve policy changes that will help the economy grow sustainably.
What you can do: Overturning the Citizens United decision will likely take a constitutional amendment; groups like Move to Amend and Free Speech for People have proposed specific language. Having the business community speak out against the impact of unlimited money will help change the discussion about reforming campaign finance laws. Support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United here.
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Policy Points is produced by the American Sustainable Business Council. The editor is Richard Eidlin, Vice President – Public Policy and Business Engagement.
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.