There is growing evidence that many American businesses are attempting to become more environmentally responsible. Some of those businesses are represented on the board of directors of the US Chamber of Commerce. This suggests that the Chamber should eventually move toward supporting…
Recently, the staff at Dolphin Blue began questioning the buying practices of our government, and evaluating their overall impact on sustainability. As more corporations continue to manufacture their goods in foreign countries, many tax-supported agencies have jumped on the “low-cost” bandwagon, creating a governmental bidding system with little regard to sustainability. To answer some of our questions, we consulted with our in-house expert, Dolphin Blue Founder & President, Thomas Kemper.
How does corporate outsourcing hinder the environmental health and welfare of our economy?
When we support the manufacturing of low-cost goods originating from distant places (i.e. China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India), the costs we ultimately incur are numerous, and detrimental to our natural world, local economies, and to the long-term health of our economy. Every time a tax-supported entity procures an item provided by giant conglomerates, we continue to chip away at the sustainability of our planet (incurring a heavy carbon footprint), our communities (by eroding the local, regional and federal tax base), and our economies (local, state, and national). Have you ever wondered why our roads, bridges, highways, school systems, county and state hospitals and park systems are in such disrepair, while the tax-supported jurisdictions responsible for their upkeep and maintenance are screaming that they are broke? How much longer can we continue to provide Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and favorable treatment to our largest corporations, so they can continue providing inexpensive foreign goods to the very tax-supported agencies that are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure and systems that are paid for, by us, the tax payers? As we, the payer of the taxes, continue to see unemployment rise, factories close due to unfavorable treatment, and the degradation of our natural resources’ health (clean air, fresh water, soil quality, forest and food stocks), while our very own taxpayer dollars continue buying cheap, resource-depleting foreign goods, creating a huge burden on the sustainability of our planet.
Corporate outsourcing clearly damages our nation’s infrastructure, but how do low-cost supplies produced in foreign countries harm our environment?
Products being procured with no understanding of our environment, affect our human health and global ecosystem in ways we are only beginning to understand. The use of chemicals, such as chlorine and chlorine-containing compounds, affect the human endocrine system, and compromises the immune system’s ability to do what it was biologically designed to do. The havoc being wreaked upon the health of our children is a cost seemingly hidden in our out-of-control healthcare system, which continues to grow as the fastest sector of our economy. I saw this issue arising back in 1994, and made a personal and business decision to provide papers that are processed chlorine free, as well as being derived from 100% post-consumer recycled fiber and made in the USA with Green-e certified renewable wind energy. Thus, it is incumbent upon all of us, as citizens of our local communities first and foremost, to get involved in the decisions being made by our tax-supported government representatives, and demand that they purchase only socially and environmentally responsible products.
Many governmental agencies purchase their supplies at a low-cost from large corporate conglomerates. How does this practice create an unfair advantage for small businesses of all types?
Many of the corporate giants (whose supplies produce an annual revenue of $15 BILLION and upward ), have the financial ability to provide a catalog with as many as 45,000-50,000 items, of which only 5-10% of those products are actually certified as “green”. Although Dolphin Blue has the capability to provide a catalog containing approximately 4,000 items, ALL made in the USA, and ALL made with post-consumer recycled materials, other small businesses are unable to offer such a catalog when a tax-supported entity (municipality, county, state, or federal government) requests pricing from the vendor community. Consequently, if a small business responds without providing a full catalog, that small supplier is deemed non-responsive to the government agencies’ Request for Quote (RFQ), giving the large giants a tremendous advantage in the marketplace.
When governmental agencies purchase products and services from corporate giants moving goods globally, with little regard to anything but profitability, the tax-supported entity is doomed and destined for failure. In my experience, very few government agencies leave the door fully open for those who qualify through the GSA contracting system, where buyers can select goods and services through a “best value” contracting criteria. While it is regrettable that some agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have granted monopolistic exclusive contracts to some suppliers, a true environmentally conscious buyer will go shopping elsewhere, seeking the products and services truly aligned with the EPA’s stated, charted mission.
Is there a “Watch Dog” system in place to monitor and measure the environmental degradation, loss to society, or economic erosion of such “full service” catalog purchasing relationships?
Unfortunately, there is no program in place to monitor these relationships, and if governmental agencies continue to support the taxpayers who fund its existence, the tax-supported agencies will continue to thrive in the marketplace, while we continue seeing our planet’s health degrade.
Yes, but don’t some of the larger corporations offer “green” products?
Many “green” items being offered by the giants are not certified for the environmental attributes being claimed, and many of the so-called “green” products are not green at all. They are usually being shipped many thousands of miles to gain business at a very low invoice expense, which further degrades our planet’s sustainability by imparting a very heavy carbon footprint on the health of our planet. What might that cost be, to our society, our planet, and, to future generations? We’ve already keenly aware of those costs. We see them around us every day. The longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more devastating the costs.
Additionally, many of the purchasing contracts do not require the products to be made in the USA, thus sacrificing American jobs for a few nickels. While these large “full service” catalog transactions are rampant among many levels of our government, there are many buyers within these agencies that truly understand the meaning of sustainability (meeting the needs of our generation, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs), and practice responsible procurement methods. For these buyers, I applaud and acknowledge your pioneering spirit. Thank you. You understand that we are all in this together, and without us working together to achieve a sustainable planet, we will only be continuing to paint ourselves into a very precarious corner. As citizens of our neighborhoods, local communities, country, and planet, we must be good stewards, and be responsible with all items, goods, and services we purchase. We owe it to our children.
Tom is founder and CEO of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally sustainable green office supplies and green printing products.
I recently heard about, and subsequently registered to be active in the AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting on our Budget and the Economy.
After reading the press release covering the National Town Meeting, and it’s 19 participating large cities (that were satellite connected and another 50+ smaller cities that were “on their own”), I knew I had to be present to deliver my side of what I perceive as the reason our federal government is in deep debt, and what I perceive and believe are the reasons for our economy being in such a frightening transformation for most people.
On Saturday, June 26, four hundred lively and concerned citizens showed up at the Dallas Convention Center, Ballroom C to express our views toward balancing the US Budget.
In anticipation of being outnumbered on my progressive views, I wrote the following piece to share with my fellow symposium attendees, expecting the majority of them to be from the radically-opposed, corporate freedom and big business as usual crowd. What I discovered in my being there, was that this country’s politics have transformed, particularly since the main presenters and funders of the National Town Meeting are The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the advisory Committee is populated with the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and a few other think tanks I believe are pro-free trade and anti-environmental as well as being generally opposed to social justice.
My pre-NTM views and opinions follow:
If the reason for this meeting is to ensure there is an economic future to be enjoyed by all of us, then I am here to represent those who want to ensure there is a sustainable, healthy and vibrant natural world remaining for all of us. Look around at what is happening as we sit here debating. The gulf is being destroyed, and many species living there are being destroyed, because of our unwillingness to look differently and with a realization that we need more to become what we aspire to be, than to just amass more consumer goods and more oil-dependent products.
Without a world that provides the healthy air we breathe, the clean water we drink, and fresh, nutritious foods we eat, and our fellow species which pollinate, prey on insects and rodents and keep nature in balance, we’re all doomed.
Of utmost importance to me is insuring that we have a healthy and sustainable planet not just for us, but for future generations.
If one of the intentions of this NTM is to return to the former days of unsustainable economic growth, then we’re all simply accelerating our eventual demise. You may have heard of Peak Oil, if you haven’t, read Micheal C. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse. Or, Google the Post Carbon Institute or Matthew Simmons. Matthew is a close friend of our former President, George W Bush. See what Matthew has to say on the subject of Peak Oil.
We are fast approaching the end of the age of oil, oil that is capable of running our and the world’s economy. Without that oil, we face a future unlike anything we can now imagine. Google The End of Suburbia by James Howard Kunstler.
If we return to the heyday of unlimited, damn the torpedoes growth, we only accelerate our final collapse. The time we now have is barely sufficient in allowing us to dig our way out of the mess we’re not being told (by our leaders) we’re currently facing.
Campaign contributions gain access and favorable legislation for corporations, who increase their profitability by sending US worker’s jobs overseas. We lose the income tax base, the unemployed workers then become dependent on the healthcare system, mainly county hospitals, and those hospitals receiving federal funds get pushed harder and harder, stressing our local economies and national budget even further.
(in the NTM, I learned the following in a conversation with one of the attendees: Les was telling me he has an asthmatic condition. In a recent episode where he was wheezing, he went to his local hospital’s emergency room, where he was given a blood test and a $ 26.00 prescription. Three months went by when Les received a hospital bill, dunning him for another $ 50.00. He asked the hospital to send him the itemized invoice for his emergency room visit. A few days passed, and Les received a bill showing the $ 50.00 the hospital wanted from him, plus another $ 7000.00 the hospital had invoiced Medicare. He was outraged to say the least.)
How many of these type incidents are happening without our knowledge. No wonder the Medicare and Medicaid programs are stressing the system. The hospital corporations, like the irresponsible giant corporations, are out of control. And our Congress, in its greed, has allowed them to behave in this manner.
Corporate subsidies such as defense dollars expended to conquer countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, are funded by you and me, bankrupting our government and disrupting our economy even further. Once Iraq is under US troops’ domination, companies such as Halliburton, MCI, Verizon, AT&T, Boeing, Blackwater, etc. get huge contracts (funded by you and me) to build infrastructure, which generates future business for these companies, who have given generously to our Congresspersons. We see no return from this expenditure. Socialized risk and expenditure, privatized profit. How long will this failed model continue?
How many jobs have been lost to NAFTA, CAFTA, MFN trade status with China, open markets and free flow of capital, so that our most profitable corporations can off-shore our jobs, derailing our economy further and deepening our dependence on foreign governments and foreign investors who control our destiny. All so a few obscenely wealthy corporations and heartless individuals can get richer and richer, while many of our employable, capable fellow Americans starve.
Healthcare is in critical condition because we’re being fed genetically-modified food and food heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. The food is being raised and shipped from distances many thousands of miles from our tables, causing the food to be heavily dependent on petroleum, creating ever-increasing toxic emissions. We’re eating oil. We’re drinking Viagra, Lipitor, Aleve, Allegra, Flomax, Xanax and Wellbutrin, as these all combine in our bodies, entering us through the tap water we drink. If we drink bottled water and eat from fast food plastic containers, we ingest BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals leaching from the plastic and entering our bodies. If you want to lower healthcare costs, clean up our Congress that so freely takes campaign contributions from BIG pharma. Clean up the USDA and FDA, agencies that are tasked with protecting us, that are now staffed with industry management and lobbyists, who continually enter that revolving door that provides access to more money and more power.
Our water is being privatized, and we’re drinking water contained in plastic, made from petroleum. All so corporations can generate ever-higher profits.
Beef, pork, chickens and other meat giving livestock are being raised and slaughtered in conditions that make not only the animals unhealthy, we are increasingly unhealthier for ingesting animals that have no life-giving energy, no life-giving spirit. We’re being fed animals that are being fed each other, that are being fed toxic food, and are living in conditions not qualified to be considered life at all.
Is it any wonder healthcare costs are continually rising? Is it any wonder Medicare and Medicaid budgets are continually increasing?
If we want to truly address the budget and healthcare in this country, we must first start by reeling in the campaign contributors, the wealthiest in our country and the corporations that are out of control and in violation of human trust, then, we must reform our electoral system and our legislators, who are so greedily allowing our country to be destroyed and bankrupted. We must also take our own responsible steps to do what is right and good for not just us, but for our children and their children. We must preserve our plant, our beautiful garden, because it is the only one we will ever have.
(end of my pre-NTM address)
As I participated with the four other attendees that sat at my table, I was respectfully heard, had plenty of time to express my aforementioned views, and generally had a very enjoyable time participating in the act of balancing the federal budget, something our Congresspersons should be doing in Washington, rather than fighting amongst each other and looking out only for the interest of their campaign funders.
As the early polls came in from the first few questions that were posed to all 3500 participants nationwide, I began to realize the responses appeared to me to be very much in alignment with my personal views. This was a very pleasant surprise. The remainder of the day produced participant views that stayed very much in alignment with my environmental and social views. Indeed, it was obvious many of us were pleased. There is still hope for America!
At the wrap-up of the Dallas NTM on Saturday, there were Theme Team messages voted on by all active 3500 participants in 70 cities across the US. One of the messages for Congress was “If 3500 of us, who sat down for one day, could collaborate and, respectfully dialog with agreement to reach a balanced budget, why can’t you?” I think I know the answer to that question…
- We want to balance the budget!
- We’re not being lobbied by every special-interest lobbying group for meeting their desired agenda!
The National Town Meeting went very well, surprisingly, and, unexpectedly, the opportunity for ALL voices to be heard was extended and welcomed. I believe the voices of those representing a vision of a healthy and sustainable planet for our children were present, were heard, and the overwhelming outcome reflected that.
A preliminary report, which was prepared and ready for all participants prior to our departure on Saturday, is available here as a PDF.
And, some articles that have been published online following the National Town Meeting…
It was fun being a participant in an event concerning such a critical issue. This may have been the biggest statement the American people, “We the People” have made in collaboration with our political detractors and deniers, in a peaceful and respectful manner.
We should all pat ourselves on the back and be proud of what we did on Saturday. Now, we must make sure Congress and the President do what we’ve shown them “We the People” can do, and do what we elected them to do.
To join in the AmericaSpeaks discussion, visit www.usabudgetdiscussion.org.
Our friends over at Post Carbon Institute recently wrote a blog entitled “What’s it Going to TaketoBeat BIG OIL? 537 Spines.” In the post, they write, ”Clearly our nation’s leaders haven’t found the backbone to stand up to Big Oil and break our addiction to fossil fuels, so we’re asking you to lend them yours.” And they mean it, literally!
They also need your help. If you want to have your voice heard, click on the link below and participate. Along with sending a toy spine in your name to your government officials, they, ”will also include an optional statement from you, to our leaders, about what you are doing in your life to kick the fossil fuel habit. We’lll be documenting our backbone shipments in pictures and videos that will be uploaded to the PCI Facebook page, so keep an eye out on this campaign’s progress.”
Please help by giving our government a backbone!