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Policy Points: Support Paid Sick Time, Just Trade and More


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 two important policies that can do that -- and another action that can help shift the debate on many more. Here are three ways concerned business people can engage:

1. Support healthy families with paid sick time

Last month, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) met with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who announced he will co-sponsor the Healthy Families Act, a bill which would let workers earn up to 56 hours of sick days, earning one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. Wyden, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, marked the bill’s 29th co-sponsor. Along with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the bill now has the declared support of 30 senators. The companion bill in the House has 122 co-sponsors.

What’s at stake: Every year, businesses lose $227 billion from lost productivity, either when employees miss work because they are sick, or when employees report to work but are so sick they cannot perform as well as possible -- what’s known as “presenteeism.” While some employee illnesses are unavoidable, the best way to address these is not to make workers come in when they are not physically able to work -- and could risk getting other employees or customers sick. Requiring earned sick days will keep employees healthier and more productive, while alleviating the costly problem of employee turnover by letting workers know they are valued.

What you can do: The Healthy Families Act has support in both houses of Congress, but more businesses need to step up and show they recognize the long-term benefits of good workplace practices like earned sick days. Show your support for the Healthy Families Act here.

2. Hold the president to his promise on trade

Earlier this year, Congress voted to give President Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended by Congress. Recent negotiations in Hawaii that included trade leaders from 12 Pacific nations failed to reach a final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

According to reports, negotiations stalled over dairy and auto trade issues, as well as debates over certain drugs. However, some negotiators claimed there had been more movement toward a finalized deal, and one claimed that “98 percent [of the deal] is concluded.” More negotiations could be held later, although some pundits think that the upcoming presidential election could make passing a final deal through Congress less likely.

What’s at stake: President Obama has claimed the TPP will be “the most progressive trade agreement in history,” and pledged it will lead to raised labor and environmental standards among its signatories. However, considerable concerns remain that the deal -- which encompasses nations accounting for 40 percent of global GDP -- will simply allow a race to the bottom on smart regulations, even allowing multinational corporations to sue governments in an international tribunal if regulations adversely affect their profits. Trade should support stronger standards that make the economy stronger over the long term by protecting our environment and supporting fair treatment of workers.

What you can do: The president has a chance to show he stands by his words, and will not accept a trade deal that does not advance stronger labor and environmental standards. Businesses need to ensure he’s held to that promise. Urge President Obama to stand firm and only support a sustainable TPP.

3. Attend the Sustainable Business Policy Summit

ASBC’s Fourth Annual Sustainable Business Summit kicks off next month in Washington, D.C. This three-day event offers businesses from around the country a chance to exchange views with others and meet with policymakers from Congress and the administration.  The summit brings together responsible business leaders from across the country to influence the policies that will help make the American economy more vibrant and just.

What’s at stake: When businesses speak, policymakers listen. With Congress and the White House searching for ways to strengthen the economy, address climate change and break the political paralysis, the role of sustainable business has never been as important. As the presidential election draws near, the Summit offers valuable insights into how policy will evolve in 2016 and how your company or organization can help shape the agenda.

What you can do: Space is limited and this event always sells out, so interested businesses should make sure to register now to make sure they can secure a spot.

Policy Points is produced by the American Sustainable Business Council. The editor is Richard Eidlin, Vice President – Public Policy and Business Engagement.

Image credit: Flickr/Dr. Farouk

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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