In the News

In the News: Consultants Urge Congress To Use Sustainability For Environmental Policy

Inside EPA

by Dave Reynolds

June 24, 2019

A small panel of government and industry consultants is urging Congress to use sustainability as a framework for tackling environmental problems, saying the federal government is lagging behind on a coherent policy while companies advance sustainability’s goals of environmental protection, economic development and social justice.

The panel met with House and Senate staff June 10, but industry and public sector advisor Ira Feldman tells Inside EPA he is a planning a similar event for a broader audience in Washington, D.C. in the coming months.

The Hill briefing builds on Feldman’s ongoing efforts for the federal government to look to sustainability’s blend of environmental protection, economic development and social justice, as a framework for advancing the ideas encompassed in the Green New Deal.

“Properly understood, sustainability is a coherent framework for advancing the bundle of issues contained in the Green New Deal,” panelists said in a briefing presentation.

Feldman was joined by Alan Horowitz, principal and managing director of Trusted Companies LLC, who previously worked as an environmental health and safety compliance official at Microsoft and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.  Jeremy Symons, of Symons Public Affairs and formerly of the Environmental Defense Fund moderated the discussion.

Feldman said the briefing sought “to push a reset button on sustainability as it is understood on the Hill,” where he says people have not been talking about sustainability for some time.

Speakers provided staffers with a history of advances in sustainability in recent decades in the United States, which have occurred largely outside the federal government.

On sustainability, “the posture of business and industry has completely flipped from the mid to late 1990s, where business and industry are now the leading champions of sustainability in the U.S. market,” he tells Inside EPA.

Many advances have occurred in the financial sector, where environmental, social and governance (ES&G) concepts that consider companies’ environmental footprint or other business practices are guiding investors’ decision making. The presenters contended that similar concepts should also undergird federal policymaking.

In an invitation to the briefing on “Sustainability: Reviving the Federal Role” at the Rayburn House Office building, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) suggested that the federal government could learn from steps taken in industry and local government to better incorporate sustainability into efforts to plan for and respond to challenges.

“Business and industry are now our leading champions for sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility (CSR) with an explosion of interest in sustainable supply chain management, sustainability reporting, and impactful initiatives that go well beyond legal compliance,” Raskin said in the invitation.

“Outside of the Beltway, the private and public sectors have been putting sustainability into practice,” Raskin said.  “Sustainability thinking has permeated financial decision making under the banner of ES&G which embraces environment, social and governance factors/analytics.” — Dave Reynolds

In the News: Ira Feldman briefs Congressional staff on advancing sustainability policy in the US

June 10 — Washington, DC —  40 staff from the House and Senate heard Ira Feldman offer ideas for advancing sustainability policy in the US.  Feldman recapped the basics of sustainability for the attendees and traced the brief history of sustainability in the US beginning with the efforts of President’s Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) in the 1990s. He emphasized that, even without a national sustainability policy council for the last 20 years, much progress has occurred in the US and must inform the current discussions sparked by The Green New Deal proposal. Feldman was joined by Alan Horowitz of Trusted Companies, who shared perspectives from business and industry, and moderator Jeremy Symons of Symons Public Affairs.  The presentation entitled “Sustainability — Reviving the Federal Role” followed interest in Feldman’s op-ed published in The Hill in February and follow-on conversations with Members and Staff, including Rep. Jaimie Raskin of Maryland who invited his colleagues to attend the June 10 session.  See below.

Ira Feldman profiled in Inside EPA’s new feature “Environment Next”

 

Profile

Ira Feldman


Inside EPA
Environment Next
June 03, 2019


Former EPA official Ira Feldman for decades has pressed for the United States to adopt a federal approach to advancing sustainability that encompasses environmental protection, economic development and social justice.

At a June 10 briefing for House lawmakers, Feldman, a former EPA enforcement official and long-time industry consultant, will take his pitch to lawmakers seeking policies that refocus existing government infrastructure around sustainability.

Democrats’ Green New Deal, he says, is triggering renewed debate on the need for a national sustainability policy that was never fully realized after the President’s Council on Sustainable Development ended in 1999.

Yet Feldman says sustainability principles have continued to advance in the private sector and around the world.

At the House briefing, Feldman will re-up his pitch for an umbrella organization to champion federal sustainability policies, which he sees as the “weak link” in U.S. sustainability efforts, and to convene a cross-spectrum of stakeholders.

He will push for the federal government to back approaches similar to the environmental management systems (EMS) that he pushed to include in EPA settlements while special counsel to EPA’s enforcement office in the 1990s. EMS policies seek to reduce a company’s environmental footprint while also growing revenue.

He is also eyeing changes at other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which he says could change its regulations to embrace environmental and social governance.

Feldman tells Inside EPA in a recent interview that “Sustainability is not ‘going green’ — that is dumbing down a robust framework.” Instead, he says sustainability is a way of thinking focused on “the integration of environmental protection, economic development and social justice.”

He adds, “Climate change is understandably front and center of the agenda that frames [sustainability] but it has to be broader if we’re going to make any progress.”

The GND floats proposal such as setting renewable energy goals for the power sector and bolstering building efficiency, while increasing investments in education, healthcare and clean air and water.

“Most ideas of the ideas in the Green New Deal have been under discussion for years,” Feldman says.

“Everybody else [around the world] signed on to the [United Nations’] Sustainable Development Goals voluntarily. What’s going on here [in US policy]? Not too much.”

Ira’s op-ed on the Green New Deal and Sustainability was published Feb. 9, 2019 in The Hill, a Washington, DC based news organization focusing on issues before Congress.