Traditional economic wisdom promotes increasing profits, regardless of the method or outcome. This approach exists because historically, businesses operated in a vast environment of seemingly limitless resources, with a much smaller population and much lower standard of living creating much less impact on that environment. The ability to impact the biosphere on a macro level was so farfetched that the idea of sustainability seldom reverberated in society. Only when the environmental movement gained momentum in the 1970s did businesses start to realize the damaging effects environmental negligence poses to our world—and to their profits.
Acidifying oceans, rising sea levels, invasive species, mass extinction, toxic air, polluted rivers, water scarcity, excessive trash, extreme weather, soil degradation and famine due to crop failure—these are just some of the damage inflicted by disregard for the environment. Displacing even one of the natural cycles inflicts huge repercussions on regional businesses, which rely on the environment to provide the resources that become goods and services. To mitigate further economic losses, businesses must recognize the link between ecological and economic policies and the dollar value of unimpaired ecosystem services.
Disasters such as the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia, and the Flint water crisis in Michigan serve as stark reminders of the economic and environmental devastation that occurs when companies forgo sustainable business practices. Prioritizing short-term profit above long-term sustainability results in negative externalities that hinder long-term profitability. Conversely, when businesses follow a triple-bottom-line strategy (prioritizing people, planet and profit), everyone benefits. By recycling waste and using renewable energy sources, businesses keep our air and water clean and conserve our planet’s finite resources. This creates a positive externality, which produces more profit—more reliably—in the long term.
To incentivize triple-bottom-line strategies, ASBC supports:
- Incentives to reduce waste that builds up in the environment,
- Agricultural technologies to reduce pollutants that end up in rivers and hurt downstream communities, and
- Policies to help consumers and businesses find chemicals that are safer for human health and the environment.