By Zach Bernstein
Farsighted business leaders already implement sustainability initiatives and operate social enterprises. But protecting their businesses and the public from others’ unfair corporate practices takes more than voluntary standards. We need laws and regulations that vigorously support smart long-term decisions; laws that capture the all-in costs of social and environmental externalities.
Legislators need to know that business leaders support pragmatic policies like these to make our economy resilient, healthy and workable -- sustainable in the largest sense.
What’s at stake
TSCA has been disastrously remiss at testing toxic chemicals; about 62,000 chemicals were already on the market when TSCA was passed, and were “grandfathered” in without any safety testing. This bill would start to change that but does not provide the needed level of reform. It would expand the EPA’s authority to test more chemicals but would set an unnecessarily slower testing pace. Worse, states would be prohibited from regulating chemicals while the EPA was still testing them, which could leave blocking toxic chemicals in limbo for up to three years.
The American Sustainable Business Council and its members have expressed concern about the bill and called for stronger testing and transparency measures.
What you can do
True reform requires that transparency, safety, and innovation be supported in federal law. While this bill is currently on track to pass, it’s only a start. Efforts at the state level continue, and more businesses are responding to increased customer demand for safer chemicals. Business leaders’ views matter; support even stronger chemical reform by joining the Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition.
A previous proposal would have raised the minimum wage for tipped workers to $7.50 an hour; the new law would raise it to $5.55 an hour, and it also would be indexed to inflation. (The “tipped wage” assumes supplements from customer tips; if a server does not receive the normal minimum wage of $15 through the tipped wage plus tips, the employer would have to make up the difference.) Efforts are also underway to put on the November ballot a measure that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers, tipped or otherwise.
What’s at stake
The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009 -- and is actually worth less now than it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation. States are moving to make up the gap; in 2015, 29 states and Washington, D.C. had wage floors higher than the federal level. While critics predictably argue these additional costs burden businesses, research has found that minimum wage increases have not led to major changes in unemployment. Workers with more disposable income spend it with local businesses, and are less likely to seek better-paying jobs elsewhere, forcing firms to spend money on replacement hiring and training.
What you can do
Raising the federal minimum wage would help worker compensation keep pace with the actual costs of goods and services, boost consumer spending nationwide, and free up our tax dollars currently used on public assistance for full-time workers whose employers take profits at the expense of a living wage. You can show your support for a minimum wage increase by joining Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
What’s at stake
Agriculture is obviously essential for our food supply and an education is increasingly needed for success, but farming is becoming an unfeasible career due to young farmers’ crippling college debt. According to survey data from the National Young Farmers Coalition, more than half of their members either delayed their farming career or quit farming because of student loan issues. With American farmers growing older, the need for more and younger farmers is crucial to avoid threats to food security, a major problem faced by food manufacturers like Clif Bar. By addressing the student debt burden, this bill could remove a major barrier to younger farmers starting careers in agriculture.
What You Can Do
Legislation easing new farmers’ path to entry into agriculture is crucial for our food security -- and for the growth of numerous businesses nationwide. Show your support for the Young Farmer Success Act.
Image credit: Flickr/The All-Nite Photo
Zach Bernstein is Manager of Research and Social Media for the American 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.