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Houlahan Holds Hearing Aimed at Empowering Socially Responsible Small Businesses

Washington, December 4, 2019

Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Committee, chaired by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), conducted a hearing focused on how small businesses incorporate social and environmental responsibility into their business model and ways that Congress can support them. The hearing gave members the chance to look at how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can provide a more sustainable economic framework and help alleviate issues like the climate crisis and income and wealth inequality. 

“Small businesses have been critical leaders in the practice of corporate social responsibility,” said Houlahan. “Now more than ever, it is crucial for companies to invest in workers, the environment and community, to build sustainable business practices, and to promote diversity and inclusion. I was honored to serve as the Small Business Committee Chair today as we work on a bipartisan basis to elevate the power and promise of corporate social responsibility. Hearing from local small business owners from our community and beyond today was an important first step towards building an economy that is more fully invested in acting responsibly for all.”

Since the turn of the century, there has been an increased emphasis placed on CSR in the business world. From 1999 to 2017, the number of Fortune 500 companies that report CSR metrics has risen from 35 percent to 93 percent. Small businesses, in particular, have been at the forefront when it comes to implementing CSR initiatives like energy sustainability, employee equity and inclusion, and creating companies that emphasize providing value to employees and the communities in which they operate. Increased emphasis on CSR has also led to the creation of new business forms focused on improving society while also growing their businesses.

The hearing gave members the chance to examine the evolving landscape of CSR and discuss ways Congress can empower businesses working toward the common good.

“The 21st century will be defined by whether American capitalism sufficiently meets our collective needs and tackles our greatest challenges including climate change, growing inequalities, decent work for all, and threats to our democratic institutions,” said Dr. Robert Strand, executive Director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California Berkeley. “The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) succinctly articulate these needs and challenges. The success of American capitalism in the 21st century will be measured against the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“The majority of America’s small businesses begin with the impulse to put at the center of work some interest, obsession or skill and to engage with others of like mind, heart and need,” said Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosphy at Patagonia. “Small businesses are by definition rooted in community, either a shared place or activity; they almost all have a clear purpose. They have to make a profit to run their business within its means, but profit is rarely an end in itself.”

“Small businesses are in a unique position to pave the way for large-scale business transformation,” said Kristy Wallace, CEO of the Ellevate Network in New York, NY. “These businesses are agile, innovative, and centered around community and values. Given the importance of small business development, it is only fitting for our government to support small businesses further in being drivers of social good both internally and externally.”

“Through business, embracing corporate social responsibility means empowering, caring for, and improving the quality of life for our most important asset, our people, and our most important resource, our planet,” said Jaime Arroyo, Managing Partner of Work Wisdom in Lancaster, PA. “While we can spend hours discussing the troubles that our society faces today, the fight against inequality, and the war against climate change, we understand that our country wasn’t built by being against something, but rather standing for a just cause.”

“For businesses to act in a responsible way towards their employees, suppliers, communities, and environment is not only the right thing to do, but it is good business as well,” said Houlahan. “Small firms already know that being socially responsible by treating customers and employees fairly leads to more sales, happier employees, and a stronger Main Street.”

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