It's a Wrap: SUSTYBIZ16!
Business leaders from across the country gathered September 25-27 for an intensive program of learning, networking and lobbying at SUSTYBIZ 16, ASBC’s fifth annual Sustainable Business Summit in Washington DC.
Themed “Looking Beyond the Elections,” the positive, solutions-oriented Summit was, for many, a sorely needed antidote to the current election cycle’s toxicity. Attendees agreed: The program delivered.
Sherrie Medina of chemical manufacturer Pantheon told ASBC, “This was our first SUSTY Summit and it was excellent! Everyone made me feel very welcome, and I was really inspired and energized by all the panel discussions and activities, and by the advocacy work at the Capitol.”
Sam Jammal of SolarCity agreed. “I really enjoyed all the sessions, and the connections I’ve made will be very useful. I am definitely going to recommend the SUSTY Summit to others.”
Exploring Issues, Studying Solutions
Business leaders networked informally at the welcoming reception on Sunday night, followed by a screening of Fix It, the compelling documentary film about the U.S. healthcare system. First thing Monday morning, attendees gathered in working groups and jumped into the issues.
The formal program kicked off with Stan Greenberg of Democracy Corps, Jill Hanauer of New America Project, and Mark Magana of Green Latinos tackling the overview topic, “What can Sustainable Business Leaders Expect from the Election?” The program then explored specific issues beyond the election that will be of interest to leaders of responsible, sustainable businesses.
A panel discussion on the future of work was introduced with the announcement of a major ASBC campaign called The High Road Workplace Project. “This ambitious, multi-year campaign is designed to highlight the best practices of high-road workplaces, identify ways that government can help spread adoption of those practices, and then organize businesses to call for such public policies as Family Medical Leave, Child Care and higher Minimum Wages,” said Richard Eidlin, ASBC vice president of VP of Policy and Campaigns.
Moderator James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly said that the High Road is a potential solution to the second Gilded Age in which he believes we are currently living and noted that interested businesses can endorse the high-road workplace principles that ASBC announced. U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Christopher Lu also applauded the goal of the high-road workplace principles.
In addition to the panel on the future of work, other Summit panels and workshops covered climate change, income equality, equity for women, and innovative policy initiatives at the state level. Speakers included members of Congress John Delaney and Ruben Gallego; Geraldine Moriba of CNN, Roberta Lang of Whole Foods Markets, Adele Morris of the Brookings Institution, Rod Richardson of the Grace Richardson Fund, Amy Hall of Eileen Fisher, anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s.
Celebrating Exemplary Leadership
On Monday evening, Summit participants enjoyed the annual gala awards dinner honoring those who provide “exemplary leadership in driving forward policies that help build a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable America.”
Recipients of the Sustainable Policymakers Awards (SUSTY awards) in 2016 are: U.S. Representative Chris Gibson, U.S, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak and the CEO of Earth Friendly Products, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks.
Active Advocacy with Policymakers
Over breakfast on Tuesday morning, SUSTY16 participants prepared for a day of direct action on critical issues. Groups prepared for meetings with House and Senate staff on key policy issues including chemical regulation reform, carbon tax to offset climate change, raising the federal minimum wage, family medical leave insurance, and increasing federal support for employee stock ownership plans.
Moving from Capitol Hill to the White House, Summit attendees participated in discussions and presentations on topics including criminal justice reform, clean energy and climate, and how business leaders can become more active in local and state politics.
A briefing about the U.S. Supreme Court nomination capped the day’s meetings. Julie Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Public Engagement, asked business leaders to push for a speedy nomination because the Court rules on many policies that impact businesses. Noting that “the Court is not taking as many cases as it has in the past,” Rodriguez asserted that “business leaders must make a case to Congress that this issue must be resolved, because otherwise, the Court is at a level of uncertainty.”
Consistent with its goal, SUSTYBIZ16 provided a unique opportunity for responsible business leaders to engage directly in the policymaking process. As Rob Diamond, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Private Sector Engagement noted, “It’s critical that sustainable businesses show up in Washington, because their voice matters.” Again this year, through the ASBC Summit, they did.