How to support clean water, safer chemicals and climate action

May 27, 2016

By Zach Bernstein

As we look ahead to the November election, we may be concerned that a number of policy debates in Washington and the states could have outsized impacts on the business community. The good news is, the business voice on sustainability issues could help move these contentious debates forward.

The American Sustainable Business Council asks for businesses to keep a lookout for these three issues as they come before Congress and make their opinions known to lawmakers. These are issues that the ASBC is working on with many other organizations.

Fight for clean water

Last month, the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship held hearings on the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, and how it might hurt small businesses. Instead, Frank Knapp , president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the ASBC board, testified as to the importance of the rule for small businesses.

What’s at stake

As Knapp noted in his testimony, clean water is a crucial resource for all businesses and for local economies.

“Ask the small businesses of Charleston, West Virginia, what happened to them after the 2014 chemical spill in the Elk River that shut down their water supply and their businesses, costing the local economy $19 million a day,” Knapp said (PDF). He also pointed to ASBC polling, which found that 80 percent of small business owners nationwide supported the EPA’s rule, and where 71 percent said that clean water protections were necessary to growth, compared to 6 percent who disagreed.

What you can do

The hearing nonetheless demonstrated that many members of Congress seem to believe that blocking rules designed to protect our nation’s waterways will be good for business. They need to hear from businesses such as yours who know that isn’t the case. Join the business campaign in support of clean water today.


Support strong, safe chemicals programs

Last month, ASBC was honored by the EPA as a Supporter of the Year in support of the agency’s Safer Choice program, a voluntary labeling program that gives a boost to products that meet a higher, safer standard for safety and environmental impact. The awards recognize businesses and organizations that advanced chemical safety through participation in or promotion of the Safer Choice program. ASBC members Seventh Generation and the Ashkin Group were also honored by the EPA; Earth Friendly Products, another ASBC member, won the award in 2015.

What’s at stake

The Safer Choice program represents one of the best chemical safety policies in the government, epitomizing effective collaboration between the public and private sectors. Unfortunately, chemical law as a whole is in desperate need of revision; the nation’s chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), has not been updated since it was passed in 1976.

Making matters worse, the EPA’s power to regulate chemicals under TSCA is very limited: of the 80,000 chemicals currently produced, 62,000 have never been tested under TSCA because they were already on the market in 1976.

What you can do

The success of the Safer Choice program is proof that consumers are looking for safer, healthier alternatives to chemicals currently on the market. TSCA needs to be reformed to take advantage of that, and to ensure that the values of transparency, safety and innovation are realized. Your business can help make that case; join the Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition today.

Take the next step on climate change

Last month, leaders from 155 nations gathered in New York City to officially sign the historic climate change agreement reached in Paris last year, which commits signatories to reducing their carbon emissions and slow the rise of climate change.

Signers included the leaders of the United States and China, by far the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. While the Paris agreement represents a major step forward on climate change, especially given the sheer number of nations signing onto it, there is still much more that needs to happen to achieve its goals.

What’s at stake

Here in the United States, policymakers need to pursue more efforts to reduce carbon emissions. One, the Clean Power Plan, would require 30 percent cuts in carbon emissions from existing power plants, using 2005 levels as the baseline. The rule is being challenged in federal courts, despite that the Supreme Court previously has ruled the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

What you can do

Opponents continue to claim that businesses oppose action on climate change, a view contradicted by small business polling commissioned by ASBC. Businesses need to show their support for the Clean Power Plan, and urge their governors to continue developing plans to cut carbon emissions under the rule.

Zack Bernstein is the Research Manager at the American Sustainable Business Council

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