We have heard an ongoing cry from organizations claiming to represent all businesses that they oppose any government action on toxic chemicals in our products, warning of increased costs and job losses. Now, a new independent poll shows that when it comes to protecting workers and consumers from negative effects of toxic chemicals, small-business owners agree with voters in that both want to be protected by stricter regulations.
A national poll released in July also showed that voters are seriously concerned and want action taken regarding the threat posed to people’s health from exposure to chemicals they come in contact with regularly.
This national poll of more than 500 small-business owners was conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies. The poll was commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council, a national coalition of business organizations, which together represent over 150,000 small and medium businesses sharing the goal of a sustainable economy.
Some big-business organizations have dominated the public debate about government regulations, often citing their concern for the impact of regulation on small businesses. Convincing the public that all regulations are evil and a threat to small-business growth, organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have made anti-regulation legislation in Congress a priority.
But the reality is that small-business owners are not of the same mind as CEOs of multinational corporations. While the latter are consumed with maximizing profits to satisfy Wall Street, small-business owners are focused on growing healthy Main Streets.
Small-business owners have always had a strong sense of community; they are not just a major part of local economies. They are your neighbors whose children go to local schools. Their families worship in local houses of faith and attend community plays and sporting events. They have the same interests, concerns and desires as the workers they employ and the customers they serve.
The small-business owners’ poll found that:
• 75 percent support stricter regulations of chemicals used in everyday products.
• 87 percent support government regulations of chemicals used in growing food.
• 73 percent support government regulations to ensure the products companies buy and sell are non-toxic.
• 91 percent support chemical manufacturers being held responsible for ensuring their chemicals are safe.
• 76 percent support tax incentives for companies that innovate to provide safer chemicals.
• 92 percent support regulations to protect air and water from pollution by toxic chemicals.
• 78 percent support government regulations to reduce air pollutants linked to environmental and health problems.
In this poll, small-business owners strongly believe regulations should require the transparency needed to ensure safer products. Eighty-two percent believe that businesses should be required to share chemical ingredient information all along the manufacturing supply chain — from chemical production to final consumer product. Creating a public, easily accessible database identifying chemicals of concern to human and environmental health is supported by 92 percent of small-business owners.
Small-business owners understand that the way to achieve greater protection from toxic chemicals is to reform the federal law dealing with chemical regulations. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed more than 36 years ago and has never been updated to deal with the new world of chemical threats.
Congressional legislation to reform TSCA would require chemical manufacturers to show that their chemicals are safe in order to sell them. Chemicals that may harm the public health could be limited and companies would be able to receive government support for research and development for innovation in producing safer chemicals. Seventy-three percent of small-business owners support this TSCA reform.
As we head into a new congressional session, elected leaders need to take a break from misguided efforts to stall or kill all regulations through legislation such as Senate Bill 3468, which would curtail the Consumer Product Safety Commission from protecting children from toxic chemicals. Instead, Congress should listen to the real opinions of small-business owners and voters. Stronger regulation of chemicals to protect our health and safety, and spur companies to create safer chemicals is a goal shared by all Americans.
Knapp is the vice chair of the American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund and president/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.