Field Notes: Six Social Business Issues for 2015

Field Notes

Leaders of the American Sustainable Business Council urge conscious businesses owners to sit at the table with policymakers or warn they’ll end up “on the menu.”

“When businesses speak, the media and elected officials tend to listen. The problem is that the conversation and policy decisions have for too long been dominated by business groups with an old way of thinking – that short-term profit at all cost is the most important criteria.”  So state David Levine and Richard Eidlin of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) in a recent article in Conscious Company Magazine:

There has been incredible growth in responsible and sustainable leadership by companies in all industries and that is to be applauded. However, we are still facing major obstacles to systemic change when the rules and policies are stacked in the favor of “old economy companies.” As we like to say, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

ASBC’s goal is to make sure people understand that, while the market is smart, it is not perfect. That’s why we need policies and regulations that ensure a level playing field and address externalities. It’s also why it is so important for conscious business leaders to get involved in setting policy for how the economy should work. While figuring out how the policy-making process works can seem a bit like learning a foreign language, it’s worth the time. Remember, if conscious companies are not involved in shaping the laws that govern the economy, others who may not share your values certainly will be.

Levine and Eidlin highlight six critical issues for responsible business policy in 2015, including:

  • repairing the tax code to avoid tax inversions,
  • supporting certain waterways under the Clean Water Act,
  • cutting carbon emissions,
  • putting a price on carbon,
  • protecting net neutrality, and
  • building policy protections for low wage workers.

They argue that financial performance is not hindered but helped by socially and environmentally responsible practice–and that the many business owners who share that belief should take an active role in shaping policy:

ASBC conducts national small business polling every year.  Last year, we found that 71 percent of the small business owners surveyed (a plurality of whom were self-identified Republicans) said clean water protections were crucial to economic growth, compared to six percent who said otherwise. That shouldn’t be surprising – many industries rely on clean water for one thing or another.

This explains why 80 percent of those small business owners, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, said they supported the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Waters of the US” rule, which would clarify protections for certain types of waterways under the Clean Water Act. It’s important that businesses make their support known publicly, since some business lobbies are pushing hard to have the rule dropped or changed to make it less meaningful. Even if it is approved as is, we can expect lawsuits after the rule is finalized. So, it’s crucial for business owners to continue to show that there actually is an economic case that clean water is good for business.


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