By Zach Bernstein
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 must support policy changes to help make the economy more sustainable.
A sustainable economy will depend on policies that will advance change on a societal level. Here are three important policies that can do that:
What’s at stake: The United States is the only developed nation not to guarantee paid maternity leave. Businesses with weak workplace policies run the risk of losing employees. Research indicates that, for jobs paying less than $50,000 per year, the direct cost to replace a worker is 20 percent of his or her annual salary. And when indirect costs are factored in, total costs could be more than one and one half times.
What you can do: As the FAMILY Act continues to gain momentum in Congress, the business community’s role becomes even more crucial. Businesses like EILEEN FISHER and UncommonGoods have spoken out in favor of paid leave legislation like the FAMILY Act. Add your business voice.
What’s at stake: The tax break legislation made permanent or extended tax rules that allow companies to shift income offshore to avoid paying taxes. This means that those companies can continue to take advantage of U.S. public services like security, the legal system, and infrastructure, without paying their share of taxes – and forcing consumers and smaller businesses to pick up the slack.
What you can do: Congress needs to level the playing field for business tax policies. Most businesses – think of your neighborhood coffee shop – don’t have the resources or desire to move their operations or income overseas. It isn’t fair to ask them or their customers to bear a heavier tax burden while larger firms do not. Congress could still move on to inclusive tax reform; if that happens, your business can show support for closing offshore tax loopholes.
What’s at stake: The Clean Power Plan represents the most significant effort by the federal government to cut greenhouse gas pollution and address climate change, goals supported by most small business owners. They know that left unchecked, climate change will lead to higher energy costs, supply chain disruptions, and severe weather. States should be focusing on efforts to comply with the Clean Power Plan rather than wasting time on a misguided effort to eliminate it.
What you can do: In addition to court challenges, the risk remains that Congress will attempt to block the rule through future legislation or budget maneuvers. Such moves would be bad for business and most industries. Most businesses want efforts to cut greenhouse gas pollution, avoid the effects of climate change, and move to energy sources that will make us more prosperous in the future. The Clean Power Plan can help achieve those goals - show your business’ support for this rule.
Image credit: Flickr/Diego Cambiaso
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.