Jeffrey Hollender is currently CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, which has a membership network representing over 250,000 responsible business leaders committed to public policy advocacy. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation, which he built into a leading natural product brand known for its authenticity, transparency, and progressive business practices. Hollender is also the founder of Sustain Natural, which developed and markets sustainable feminine care products for women, and he is an Adjunct Professor of sustainability and social entrepreneurship at the Stern Business School, New York University. Hollender is a strategic advisor and former Board Chair of Greenpeace US, and the author of seven books, including most recently, The Responsibility Revolution: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win and Planet Home.
Q: The American Sustainable Business Council was the first business group to endorse the Green New Deal. Why?
Three reasons. First, it’s a vision for how we can save the planet by seriously addressing climate change. That must be a top concern for every responsible business today. Second, it represents a giant business opportunity to have government support and investment for scaling the solutions that exist today and developing even more solutions for the future. Third, these businesses need to be engaged in developing the details of how the Green New Deal turns from vision to implementation. And if responsible businesses are at the table, we imagine much more collaboration between industry, government, and grassroots advocacy groups, rather than the confrontational, oppositional policy fights that are the norm right now.
Q: Tell us more about the business opportunities you see in the Green New Deal.
Why aren’t the solutions to climate change in private industry taking off and going to scale? Surely it is not that their leaders and employees aren’t doing everything they can in the current environment to grow their business as fast as they can. It’s the market that’s holding them back in myriad ways.
Adjusting markets so they work better for what society needs is a job for government. In fact, our federal, state, and local governments have always profoundly affected markets and are still doing it today. Think about how the national highway system was built or how lead was removed from gasoline and paint. Government investment, rules and regulations have a big impact on markets for goods and services. Imagine if our government prioritized investment, rules, and regulations to promote clean energy, improve infrastructure, and reduce and sequester carbon. If we adopted the goal of transitioning the economy as fast as possible in that direction, government support would make a huge difference.
Right now, our federal government is still providing subsidies to encourage more production of carbon emitting fuel. Under the implementation of the Green New Deal, you can imagine those subsidies going away. We have a responsibility and opportunity for government policies and investments to help the transition of companies and employees away from fossil fuel production and towards a sustainable economy with good jobs across all sectors, for example transitioning coal miners into wind farmers.
Q: So you see a role for responsible businesses in moving the Green New Deal forward?
It’s vital to making this work! Our experience at ASBC is that when responsible business leaders engage in policy advocacy, it absolutely moves the needle. We see it work in safer chemicals policy and we see it work in the passage of paid leave bills in states around the country. When the responsible business community comes to the table with legislators, we can pass legislation and regulations that are beneficial for the planet, our communities and our companies.
Let’s face it: many traditional, legacy companies and their lobbyists will be against the Green New Deal. They will use all kinds of arguments and tactics to persuade pro-business members of Congress and the Administration that it will be bad for business. Collectively, these businesses form the most powerful lobby in the country. The more we can show that it doesn’t represent the policy interests of all businesses – and that the industries that represent the sustainable economy of the future do support the deal – the more successful we will be.
When hundreds of thousands of responsible businesses endorse the Green New Deal that will absolutely push many policymakers to pay much more attention.
Q: What about some of the controversial aspects in the Green New Deal like federal job guarantees and universal healthcare?
Yes, business leaders need to endorse the Green New Deal vision – even with its controversial aspects. It may not be perfect, but it’s a starting place and we have a deadline looming. We can’t let a desire for perfection keep us from starting to seriously address climate change and economic vitality. We can debate the details as we move toward implementation. For example, we think market solutions like pricing carbon will be key to successful implementation. But, before we discuss that, we must decide to participate in the conversation. The Green New Deal is an important starting place and every responsible business should endorse it.
Interested business leaders can sign-on to the business statement of support for the Green New Deal here: https://www.asbcouncil.org/support-green-new-deal