2011 was a year of great expansion for ASBC. The Council established itself as a credible and effective national organization able to engage on a range of policy issues. We now have 45 organizational members which in turn represent more than 100,000 businesses and more than 200,000 individual entrepreneurs, owners, executives, investors and business professionals across the United States. These diverse business organizations cover the gamut of local and state chambers of commerce, microenterprise, social enterprise, green and sustainable business groups, local living economy groups, women business leaders, economic development organizations and investor and business incubators.
We secured an office space in D.C. to create greater access to Capitol Hill and the White House. Our October Strategy convening included several dozen meetings with Congressional offices and presentations from different agencies as well as the White House. The Council grew its team with the hiring of several additional staff, a PR firm and the involvement of interns. This issue of the Newsletter offers a summary of highlights from the year.
The conference call and discussion with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will be scheduled in late January so please look out for our announcement in the near future.
The call offers ASBC partners, supporters and friends a chance to hear from Administrator Jackson about the important challenges and initiatives the EPA will be undertaking in 2012. This is a great opportunity to learn how our businesses can work together with EPA to support smart, economically viable regulations and standards, and driving a sustainable economy.
From October 5th to 6th, ASBC descended on Washington, D.C. in force to promote its goal of building a sustainable economy. In addition to meeting with over 30 Members of Congress or their staff, ASBC spoke with senior officials from the EPA, and the Departments of Labor and Agriculture and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the White House Business Council. Several key themes emerged through the course of these discussions, including the importance of the American Jobs Act, the need for additional capital for small business, TSCA and Campaign Finance reform and the compatibility of smart regulatory policies and economic development.
ASBC members received a warm welcome—political leaders expressed excitement at seeing a progressive business voice finally taking shape in Washington and willingly shared where business can help shape a better path forward for the U.S. economy. In April 2012, ASBC plans to be back in Washington for another ‘Day on the Hill’. As Nick Sorentino of Future 500 observed, “ASBC has the foundation to grow into something much bigger than it is now. It serves our country well to have this business perspective at the table.”
Eileen Fisher Joins ASBC! Eileen Fisher, a leading clothing design firm, is ASBC newest Business Supporter. As a pioneer in socially responsible business practices, women’s economic development, human rights and environmental sustainability, Eileen Fisher will be a welcome business voice within ASBC. Visit their website at http://www.eileenfisher.com.
B Corporation The NY Benefit Corporation legislation has been enacted, making New York the seventh state to pass this new class of corporation! During 2012, Virginia, New Jersey, Hawaii and California also passed Benefit Corporation laws.
Continuing a national trend of strong bi-partisan support for benefit corporation legislation, the New York bill (S79-A and A4692-A), sponsored by Senators Daniel Squadron (D-25) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-64) and co-sponsored by William Larkin (R, C-39), passed both houses of the New York legislature unanimously.This legislation is an important step forward to help grow the New York state economy and create more jobs, while also requiring greater social and environmental benefit. http://bit.ly/vkZUkV
The B Corp Working Group in conjunction with B Lab are moving forward in 2012 to pass legislation in IL, GA, DC, CO, OR, WA, SC and NC.
Campaign Finance Reform/Citizens United With support from Business Supporter, Ben & Jerry’s, ASBC directed the ‘Business for Democracy’ campaign aimed at overturning the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to spend unlimited monies to support or oppose candidates for political office, overturning campaign finance laws in place for decades. A Business Leaders letter opposing Citizens United is still available for sign-ons here.
Energy and Environment Cut Oil Industry Subsidies
In the spring, ASBC issued a press release and letter to Congress, highlighting the need to limit subsidies to the oil industry and instead focus on supporting clean energy industries that will lead to real job growth and economic development.
PACE legislation (H.R. 2599)
ASBC conducted a webinar with PACE Now and has issued action alerts calling for support of the House PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) bill which now has secured over 48 co-sponsors. ASBC met with several Congressional offices to highlight the positive economic development benefits of the bill which promotes efficiency and renewable energy projects in residential and commercial buildings.
ASBC worked with 350.org to garner over 800 signatories on a letter to the Obama Administration, opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and calling for investment in the US renewable energy sector. The letter was hand-delivered to the White House Office of Public Engagement on Nov. 17th and mailed to the State Department. The WG also issued a press statement on the letter, encouraging the Administration to cancel the entire KXL project.
Protecting the Clean Air Act
In the face of multiple attacks to weaken the Clean Air Act, ASBC worked throughout the year to uphold the EPA's authority to regulate carbon emissions and other pollutants. ASBC supported EPA's MACT air toxics rule which regulates mercury emissions from power plants.
Clean Energy Victory Bonds
Initiated by ASBC Partner Green America, ASBC has endorsed this proposed Treasury bond that would extend the life of government programs supporting renewable energy and efficiency measures. Republicans for Environmental Protection and the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition in Congress are interested in the project as well.
The Energy and Environment WG is developing a 10-point public policy plan, based on the philosophy of ASBC including: Renewable energy, efficiency, tax-law parity, conservation, regulations, etc.
Financial Reform ASBC worked throughout the year to ensure that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has sufficient resources to do its job of protecting consumers and small businesses against financial fraud. We also supported the (failed) nomination of Richard Corday as the nominee to head the Bureau.
Healthcare The Healthcare WG focused primarily on two issues; the Family and Retirement Health Investment Act of 2011 or “Hatch Act” (S. 1098); and a new initiative, the “How Much Is It?” campaign that would call upon insurance and health care companies to provide specific information on the actual and ‘lowest’ cost of medical procedures. The Working Group will be participating in several Senate hearings this Spring, coordinated by ASBC Partner, the Integrated HealthCare Policy Consortium.
Regulations With support from the Ford Foundation, ASBC worked to present a steady stream of Op-Eds making the case that smart regulatory policies can foster innovation, protect public health and encourage market competition. Led by ASBC Board Member, Frank Knapp (President of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce) and supported by several PR firms, the project is designed to push back against the criticism that regulations are ‘job killers’. Our efforts succeeded in placing Op-Eds on a range of policy issues in the Washington Post, Politico and other publications.
Safer Chemicals and Products The Safe Chemicals Act (S 3209) was introduced during the Spring by New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. ASBC organized a series of policy briefings for House and Senate staff on the benefit of reforming the long standing Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) in terms of protecting public health and creating new product development opportunities for American firms. In addition, ASBC organized a sign on letter for Investors which called for comprehensive TSCA reform.
Sustainable Agriculture Over the past six months ASBC’s Sustainable Agriculture Working Group has developed an Agriculture & Food Principle Statement. ASBC’s agriculture policy is focused on three main areas representative of our triple bottom line philosophy:
Economic Profitability of Farms
Environment and Health (nutrition, energy, and food safety)
Social and Economic Equity for Agriculture Workers
The following areas are being addressed within the Principles:
The Agricultural Challenge—Industrial & Centralized vs. Local & Sustainable
Sustainable Farming and Local Economy Policy
Sustainable Food Systems Policy
Health & Food Safety Policy
Sustainable Ag Environmental Policy
Sustainable Ag Energy Policy
In 2012 we will focus our advocacy work on The 2012 Farm Bill Reauthorization Bill. For comments, questions or to join the Working Group, please contact Richard Eidlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bob Junk at email@example.com.
Sustainable Economic Development The Sustainable Economic Development WG is currently framing a set of principles to be adopted, and identifying national issues to pursue, including access to credit for small business, microenterprise, domestic manufacturing, procurement and a stronger relationship with the Small Business Administration (SBA); and investments in public infrastructure.
The WG is focusing on the issue of how SBA defines what a small business is, finding the 500 employee threshold highly problematic. The WG will also brainstorm on ideas on how SBA and other federal agencies can incorporate ‘sustainability’ criteria into their ‘product’ offerings.
Taxes and Revenues
This year the Tax Issues WG work pursued two very difficult, but vitally important campaigns. Through the debt and deficit wrangling, including the Congressional Super-Committee, the WG spotlighted tax solutions for deficit concerns and the need to reject austerity and invest in the public infrastructure and services that underpin our economy. They also fought off a David and Goliath battle against an intense lobby effort by a coalition of U.S. multinational corporations determined to grab another massive tax break for offshoring profits and jobs.
In addition, the WG advocated for corporate tax reform that would increase revenue and fairness rather than drain public funds and tilt the playing field even more heavily for Big Business. They sent and co-sponsored letters on responsible tax reform and public investment to President Obama, Secretary Geithner, and Congress. And they continued making the business case for reversing high-end tax cuts, which is still being pushed forward by some policy makers as part of job creation. In 2012, The WG sees many of these issues continuing in the election year as politicians jockey for public support by using tax policy to fulfill their particular vision of how to create jobs and improve the sluggish economy. ASBC will expand its efforts to link specific tax campaigns to the overall vision of policies that support the 99% of businesses, not the top 1%.
Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s Explains That When the Market Rules, The Big Guy Wins Ben Cohen, founder of Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, and co-founder of American Sustainable Business Council’s “Business for Democracy” initiative makes an outstanding case for how regulation helps innovators and entrepreneurs. Cohen describes the early days of his ice cream business and how Haagen-Dazs, then owned by Pillsbury, muscled the food distribution companies to drop the Ben and Jerry’s brand. Says Cohen “Letting the market determine the rules of the business world means there will be only one rule: The biggest guy with the deepest pockets wins.” Read the whole piece here at CNN.
2011 Growth Aided by Smart Government Regulations Jennifer Orgolini, director of sustainability and strategic development at New Belgium Brewery, and member of ASBC, speaks from experience as she advocates for sensible government regulations in a Washington Post Op-Ed which foster fair business practices and elevate quality goods and services. Read her article here.