After each of our films, some people have asked the Story of Stuff team if we’re against all business. Of course not! We’re against businesses that prioritize only short term profit at the expense of community and environmental well being. We’re upset with businesses that are flooding elections with corporate campaigns to influence election outcomes to favor their narrow interests. And we think corporations which are aggressively marketing junk food to kids are disgusting..
But there are also lots of businesses we like. We like businesses that are promoting clean energy and safe materials and which respect their workers and host communities. We marvel at those that are applying their amazing design smarts to making products cleaner, safer, longer lasting and more easily compostable and recyclable. And we like those taking a stand for green jobs, climate solutions and a whole range of other things to make the world better.
You see, businesses aren’t a homogeneous bunch. Some are part of the problem and some are part of the solution. We’re big fans of those working to be part of the solution.
I recently went to a meeting of those solutions-oriented businesses that really inspired me.
The meeting was hosted by the American Sustainable Business Council.
On the U.S. political landscape (like in many countries), the business voice that has been loudest is that of Business-As-Usual. The US Chamber of Commerce and other big business interests have fought advances on a range of environmental and social issues, from climate change to health care for all.
A group of solutions-oriented businesses got tired of the bad name and destructive role that big business was providing. So they launched The American Sustainable Business Council to elevate an alternative voice for business. ASBC works to “mobilize business organizations and businesses for a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy.”
It’s cool. You see, there are a whole lot of businesses out there that know that a vibrant, just and sustainable economy is a precursor for good business – not an obstacle to overcome or a nice marketing slogan.
Ben Cohen, from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was one of the speakers at the ASBC meeting in DC. Ben explained why it’s so important for small businesses who want a better world to get involved:
“Interestingly enough, while large corporations currently have all the power, it is small businesses that are the drivers of job creation. And it is small, often local businesses that are more connected to their communities—and interface with their communities cooperatively more as neighbors working for the common good.
But while the Chamber of Commerce and NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] have aggregated membership based on narrow self interest, up until now these neighborly socially conscious businesses have not been organized. And that’s where the American Sustainable Business Council comes in. We believe there is a huge untapped constituency of smaller businesses waiting to be organized to advocate for public policies that benefit the entire community. This organized group of tens of thousands of businesses can be the effective voice that is needed to advocate for sustainable practices in the media and political arenas. They can be a forceful counter to the message from the Chamber of Commerce that what is good for communities and the planet is bad for business.”
I love hearing business people stand up to the US Chamber of Commerce, saying that in fact, no, not all business owners are willing to mortgage away the planet’s well being for narrow business interests. We can have an economy that is good for communities, good for workers, good for business and good for the planet simultaneously. But not if we continue with business-as-usual.
So, if you’re a business owner and you feel like the Chamber of Commerce isn’t representing your values and building the kind of world you want to leave your grandchildren, check out the ASBC. If you have friends and neighbors who are businesspeople , invite them to join too. The more businesses that join, the louder the voice of solutions-oriented businesses will be.
Want to learn more? ASBC sponsors on-line webinars and in-person gatherings to learn more about critical issues and meet up with other businesses working for solutions.
The next webinar is on June 7th from 3:00 – 4:00 pm EST. It’s a Business for Democracy webinar on corporate influence in democracy, focusing on the Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court case which we looked at in our most recent movie. To register, go to: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/736389542
Later this summer, ASBC is holding events to explore both market and policy opportunities to encourage safer chemical use in products and to discuss upcoming Congressional action on energy and other issues related to small business. And all year long, ASBC hosts a variety of working groups and campaigns, from reforming outdated toxic chemicals laws to supporting real solutions to climate change. We hear from lots of small business owners who tell us that working for a better world sometimes feels like swimming upstream, alone. You’re not alone; ASBC offers lots of ways to meet and collaborate with others leveraging their position as businesspeople to make the world better. There’s lots going on. Check out ASBcouncil.org
And while ASBC has started in the U.S., they would love to connect with like-minded business organizations around the world, especially around the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, called Rio + 20, taking place in June 2012. Usually these conferences are dominated by Business-As-Usual type businesses, speaking nice words but blocking real progress. It’s critical to have a loud, strong, diverse voice of businesses supporting real solutions to counter the dinosaur business model. If you are interested, please sign up at ASBC’s site or send an email firstname.lastname@example.org and ASBC will provide you with updates on possible business engagement opportunities.
If you know of solutions-oriented business associations in other countries, please let ASBC know. And if you yourself are a solutions-oriented business outside the U.S., how about starting a Sustainable Business Association in your country to magnify the voice of forward thinking, sustainability oriented businesses in your community? It may start slow, but it’ll be a huge help over the long run for elected leaders to hear from businesses on the side of real solutions.