Business In Society
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Business in Society Blog

The Case for a Green New Deal link with Sustainable Business

First, let’s stop shouting nonsense: Capitalism is “dead”,” wounded” or “irredeemable”(some left-wing politicians).

Then, let’s compare shared, fundamental interests across society sectors: “Progressive social programs are most popular, most effective and most durable when they are carried out in ways that do not damage business prosperity.” (Sociology Professor Monica Prasad)

Now, we can proceed to consider whether — seemingly against great odds — there is hope for U.S. political accommodation between major “conflicted” constituencies in the months and years ahead.


Here’s the essence of Professor Prasad’s macro political prescription, as presented in a New York Times op-ed “How to Think About Taxing and Spending Like a Swede” : “We need to learn the secret of welfare states in that they are surprisingly business-friendly.

“What would a policy that takes these lessons to heart look like in the United States today? It would look a lot like a business-oriented version of the Green New Deal … [which] needs a great deal of work, but is far from a pipe dream, indeed the only proposal we have that is trying to face difficult truths.

“For the plan to reduce carbon emissions, however, it has to get started now and stay in place a long time … The only way to do that is to get business on board … To move from vision to reality, the Green New Deal coalition must include business groups, manufacturers, farmers and unions, and reformers need to genuinely listen and to respond to their concerns.”

Professor Prasad also sees this as a path to reducing poverty and inequality: “… focus on solving problems such as the decline in productivity and work force participation, by using the revenue from a carbon tax to create jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and by using higher taxes on capital gains to fund infrastructure, education, and research and development.

“Green reformers also need to explain the enormous business opportunity that a historic shift to a zero-carbon economy presents. Get businesses to make [such] investments and you make your policies not only feasible, but also irreversible.

“None of this would create a European welfare state. But if done right, it would create something even more extraordinary: a new model of capitalism that European progressives themselves would, someday, try to imitate.”

Is this a chimera, chasing an unreachable societal horizon? Ten years ago, perhaps unthinkable, but now the case, as presented by Professor Prasad, at least seems plausible. Because Capitalism (in various manifestations, with many achievements and yes, weaknesses) is far from “dead’ or an “irredeemable” system.

Capitalism is, once again, evolving in arguably epic dimensions.

Many thousands of companies around the world have bought into, and are implementing, new commitments to integrating social responsibilities with their long range traditional-business strategies and operations. And climate change, carbon control and energy efficiency are top priorities for these companies, often partnering with non-profit organizations.

If not totally responsive to the bolder Green New Deal demands, this large and fast-growing segment of the private sector in the U.S. and around the world is nevertheless travelling on a parallel track on key social issues – with business model articulations such as “corporate social responsibility ,”sustainable development”, “impact investing”, “Purpose Companies” and “B Corporations”.

What about the scale of these private sector — Capitalistic — endeavors?

Perhaps the best indicator is the premier global organization in this endeavor, the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.

Formed in 2001, UNGC now has some 9500 various-size company-signatories from 160 countries in every business sector on earth — all with voluntary CEO “commitments to implement universal sustainability principles and to undertake partnerships in support of UN goals.” The Global Compact has some 4000 co-signatories for such partnering; among them are governments, non governmental organizations (NGOs) and academic institutions.

The Compact is now championing the current UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. The seventeen overarching SDGs represent a sweeping, unprecedented global effort to address many of the world’s most enduring and draining social issues. Among them: Affordable and Clean Energy, Clean Water and Sanitation, Climate Action, Reduced Inequality, Peace/Justice Strong Institutions and Industry/Innovation/Infrastructure.

So the Global Compact says it seeks “to become the ‘translator’ [emphasis added] of the SDGs for business everywhere. In other words: to create a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders to create the world we want.”

Sounds like something that could appeal to Green New Deal advocates.