Fact Check: EPA Regulations Are Not Small Business's Kryptonite - Huffington Post Fact Check: EPA Regulations Are Not Small Business's Kryptonite - Huffington Post

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fact Check: EPA Regulations Are Not Small Business's Kryptonite - Huffington Post

Fact Check: EPA Regulations Are Not Small Business's Kryptonite - Huffington Post

While the economy is slowly recovering, the road back to pre-recession employment levels has been peppered with potholes. Partisan politics in Congress are doing nothing to help the economy, or the small businesses working to rebuild it. In one of the latest attempts to harness the influence of small business -- a coveted pawn in political chess games -- former Senator Blanche Lincoln decried government regulation as the biggest impediment to small business and economic recovery in a Huffington Post blog entry. She pointed to Environmental Protection Agency regulations specifically.

But let's get the facts straight.

Small business owners actually support an array of recently proposed EPA regulations. And by wide margins, too. Small Business Majority's most recent polling, released on June 7, found the vast majority of small businesses in Ohio -- a major manufacturing state -- support EPA clean air standards, and two-thirds of those polled also feel government investments in clean energy can stimulate the economy and create jobs now.

Specifically, 7 in 10 small business owners support the EPA's federal standard requiring new power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide -- even though 6 in 10 of them believe it will directly impact their business.

Todd Stegman is one of the many small business owners who believe clean energy standards are long overdue. Todd co-owns two small businesses in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his father and brother: Osborne Coinage, America's oldest private mint, and Doran Manufacturing, LLC, which provides innovative transportation products for truck fleets. "Boosting energy-efficiency standards in the United States wouldn't thwart growth for small businesses like mine -- it would enhance it," he said. "Encouraging manufacturing businesses to refine their processes by becoming cleaner and more energy-efficient would put us on the way to becoming part of a more competitive global economy."

From Todd's point of view, complying with EPA regulations is simply one of many aspects of owning a business. Consumer demand and the cost of materials are the real concerns, he says. Todd knows firsthand that the long-term benefits of investing in clean and renewable energy far outweigh the upfront costs, as he's already saving money thanks to his 2009 decision to install solar panels.

It's evident EPA regulations are not what's bogging down small business success. Even entrepreneurs who believe new regulations would directly impact their business often still support them. Half of those in our survey believe rules to reduce mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants would impact their company, yet a vast three-quarters still support them. What's more, nearly half strongly support them.

And when it comes to the "Good Neighbor Rule," which would reduce smog and soot crossing state lines, the story is the same: 65 percent are supportive of the rule, withstanding the fact that 52 percent believe it would impact their business directly.

Considering these strong numbers, it would appear there's some disconnect between this data and the Gallup polling Lincoln cited. But in fact, there isn't. The poll, which found 46 percent of small employers aren't hiring because of government regulations, actually found five other reasons that far out-ranked regulations, including no need for more employees (76 percent), worries that sales won't justify more hiring (71 percent) and worries about the current state of the economy (66 percent). Of the eight reasons owners cited for not hiring, regulations beat out just two -- the worry that their business might not last another year, and "other."

It's unfortunate when small businesses are used as a vehicle for pushing ideological agendas. This isn't to say that small businesses support all regulations all the time. But as Todd Stegman noted, small businesses are most worried about consumer demand and the rising cost of doing business, along with making payroll, healthcare costs and credit availability. That's all according to a wide body of research including our own and the very survey Lincoln cites.

So please, lawmakers, when you sit down to the policy table, don't turn a blind eye to the real issues facing small business. And when it comes to EPA regulations that promote clean and renewable energy, don't believe the hype -- small business owners support 'em.

Follow John Arensmeyer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SmlBizMajority

Business needs to loosen grip on power to reconnect with society - The Guardian

I jokingly asked the chief executive of Kingfisher the other week if I would have more sex if I bought a power tool from one of his B&Q stores.

This was after a comment from a member of the audience at the London part of Sustainability 24, which Guardian Sustainable Business ran alongside Accenture, that sustainability needs to be made more attractive and sexy to consumers.

Ian Cheshire playfully responded that I stood more chance if I joined one of the company's pilot community-based leasing schemes, than if I bought my own drill. The reason for this is clear. I am more likely to find intimacy if I am part of a community than if I am living a solitary life.

Behind the banter was a serious point. In western society, we have been taught to value comfort in our lives above all else. This generally translates to having enough money to buy the goods and services that allow us to stand on our own feet.

While we may treasure our independence, we are also learning that it comes with a high price in terms of increasing levels of loneliness. We tend to cover up this painful feeling with even more consumption and distrust of the world around us. Further strengthening this self-imposed exile is our fear of what will happen if we step off the treadmill. The more we have, the more we fear losing it all.

The wife of a finance sector professional I know responded with alarm when he said he felt he was living a lie and wanted to change direction. She quickly closed the conversation by saying she could not possibly do without the level of income he brought home.

It's not just the money of the elite that is a problem but how they value their status. Wealth has become associated with exclusivity and separation. Go to any expensive part of a city and you will be confronted with gated communities and often an eerie silence.

In contrast, those who have little tend to share more because they need to depend on each other to survive. They also tend to have a much more open approach to life because, paradoxically, they live a lot closer to death.

If we are to build a sustainable future, it is vital that the wealthier and more powerful members of society re-connect to a common sense of community and shared destiny. That is not only within their local communities but also to the people who produce the products and services on which they believe their lives depend.

How do we achieve that in the west?

Some parts of the world have been convulsed by popular uprisings but there is little sign of this in the developed world. Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, said he believes the situation will need to become a lot worse before people are shaken out of their dream-like state.

"Why are people not out on the streets demonstrating?" he asks. "Perhaps things have not got bad enough for enough people. Life is still too comfortable."

While Greenfield believes we need an environmental crisis to force the pace of change, this will not necessarily lead to a positive outcome. Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone in their book 'Active Hope' point out that while a crisis can pull people together, it is by no means a certainty: "Unfortunately, shared awareness of a problem does not inevitably cause people to come together as a community of mutual support. When the danger is only vaguely sensed and not understood, this can lead to distrust, hostility and scapegoating. In adversity, people can pull together or push apart, step outside their bubbles or retreat further into them."

So what can companies do to ensure we head in the direction of collaboration rather than conflict.

First and foremost, companies need to understand that their long-term success has to be linked to the success of society in general.

That is easy to say but represents a revolution in the way most companies think and behave. Time and again during Sustainablility 24, speakers pointed that what will help is if businesses rediscover a sense of meaning that is beyond making money.

But Greenfield says the desire to consume has trampled over spiritual values and that companies that do talk about returning to a sense of purpose are often doing so only to retain their profitability: "It is very difficult to make that change as it involves moving away from what you know has been successful even if you believe it will not be successful indefinitely in the future," he says. "It is pretty scary to do that. It is much easier to be wrong and follow the crowd because no-one holds that against you."

A shift in behaviour

So it seems pretty clear that radical change is possible only if companies recognise they can are no longer in control of the reins of power.

What is helping is the rise of social media, which allied with the traditional press, is making it easier to hold corporate power to account. Companies now recognise that they are less likely to get away with irresponsible behaviour.

That feeling of vulnerability, which companies so desperately seek to avoid, is paradoxically what will help save them. As many poor people recognise, it's when we feel at our most vulnerable that we are able to touch the humanity within ourselves, which in turn allows us to connect to those around us in a spirit of equality.

We are starting to see the first small signs that more progressive companies recognise the importance of re-knitting themselves into a broader societal framework, with talk of shared value and social impact, rather than philanthropic cash handouts.

But more often than not, this still comes from a place of companies looking at the world from the perspective of power-over rather than power-with.

Language is important here. Would the conversation change, for example, if we talked about 'shared values' rather than Shared Value, and 'social cohesion' rather than social impact?

The corporate sector would do well to heed an old Danish folktale, as told in 'Active Hope' about the two very different types of power. In a meeting between two kings, one says to the other: "You see that tower. In my kingdom, I can command any of my subjects to climb to the top and then jump to their deaths. Such is my power that all will obey."

The second king, who was on a visit, pointed to a small dwelling nearby: "In my kingdom, I can knock on the door of a house like that, and, in any town or village, I will be welcomed. Such is my power that I can stay overnight, sleeping well without any fear for my safety."

Greenfield says it is possible for businesses to see their role as helping the needs of society but he is not holding his breath.

He sees the corporate sector as still being stuck in the idea that doing good is only about helping the economy, providing jobs and making breakthrough products that make peoples' lives better.

"That is just scratching the surface of helping society," he says. "You can be neutral or a taker or you can be a contributor," he says "and business is generally neutral to a taker. It is not a builder."

To see the full interview with Jerry Greenfield, click here.

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