By Bob Keener
The incoming administration will include far more people than any before who will take senior positions from business executive backgrounds and who have no public policymaking experience.
This raises two questions: To what extent is the government really like a business? And to what extent should business models and practices be applied to the work of governance? The answer to both is: It depends -- on what kind of business models and practices we’re talking about.
There’s a big difference between business as a force for good, for individual mobility and social stability, and business as winner-take-all, exploitive, extractive and – most dangerous – wielding ultimate power over citizens.
What people usually mean by “businesslike” public governance is crucial because of the real-world decisions that flow from that view of business, including policies enacted to make the county more “business-friendly.” Far from supporting and encouraging business as a force for good, the dog-eat-dog approach is completely at odds with the values that most triple-bottom-line business leaders hold.
If you lead a business that values people and the planet as well as profits, your values – and the way you choose to operate -- are under attack in a truly threatening way. Many well-meaning legislators craft laws based on the tireless fictions handed them by the Chamber of Commerce and other old-school business advocacy groups. If you know there’s a better way, it’s time stand up for it in public and with policymakers. It’s time to become an activist for business as a force for good.
Here’s where you can start.
The most important goals of your action plan should focus on policy:
For guidance, look for areas of synergy with your business and your stakeholders. For example, some ASBC members in the tourism industry focus on clean water or nature preservation; some in the business of womenswear focus on family-friendly workplace policies. Find the issues that are important to your business wellbeing and your customers, and once you’ve chosen the top two or three issues, commit to them long-term.
To make sure your messages are heard, put them in business and economic terms. For example, point out the economic risks to your business and your industry from extreme weather events due to climate change. Or, talk about how putting more money in the pockets of low-wage workers by increasing the minimum wage would boost consumer demand in general and help your business specifically.
Having clear principles, such as sustainability and maximizing opportunity within our communities, will help others understand your perspective and will boost your credibility with politicians and the media.
Just by showing up, you let policymakers know people with your views are just as much part of “the business community” as the people who pressure them for winner-take-all concessions. Have specific policy proposals that you support and let policymakers know that you will support them if they support the proposal. Invite them to tour your facility so they can see first-hand your principles and values in action.
Image credit: Pixabay
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.