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A Time for Bold Action to Build a Sustainable Economy

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For many years, we have been told that we have to choose between growing the economy and protecting the environment -- especially as we worked to recover from the sharp downturn of 2008. But this old way of thinking has been turned on its head in the 21st century, when our prosperity is clearly linked to environmental health and green innovation. Government entities like the EPA and industry leaders like the American Sustainable Business Council are showing that clean air, a safe water supply, and healthy places to live are key ingredients to economic growth. Today -- and in the years to come -- our economy is going to grow precisely because we are taking care of our environment, and the leading job creators are going to be companies that specialize in sustainability and the green economy.

This is a time for economic growth that taps the unmatched capacity for innovation and ingenuity in American businesses, and mobilizes entrepreneurs to foster an economy that's built to last. The 2012 State of Green Business Report found that "environmental sustainability efforts continue to grow," thanks to companies that are utilizing smart, cutting-edge business practices that benefit people and the planet, all while making a healthy profit.

The American Sustainable Business Council and its members now represent over 150,000 businesses across the country. They and many other businesses in all sectors are integrating energy efficiency, emissions reductions, safer chemicals, water conservation and other sustainability measures into their business decisions. Each day, we see more exciting new technologies that make cleaner, safer and more affordable products for consumers, while boosting profits for businesses, and attracting increasing interest from investors with $3.3 trillion privately invested worldwide since 2007.

Building a sustainable economy can also put U.S. businesses at the forefront of a growing, global market. By conservative estimates, in 2010 U.S. environmental technology firms generated $312 billion in revenue and supported 1.7 million American jobs -- including 61,000 small businesses. Worldwide, environmental technology is an $800 billion industry. And in the coming years, experts foresee significant 7 percent growth as developing countries begin to more seriously address environmental and social concerns for the long term.

To seize those opportunities, we will be highlighting American ingenuity, innovation and industry at Rio+20 in Brazil this week. The federal government and private sector sustainability leaders are connecting experts -- from business, finance, education, health and more -- with people and organizations eager to build cleaner and greener world economies.

The EPA and our federal government representatives will be working with international and private sector partners to help catalyze local investments in sustainable development. By sharing our expertise and building partnerships, we can make progress on everything from clean water to deforestation to greenhouse gas reduction.

At the same time, American businesses at Rio+20 are seeking opportunities to reach new markets around the world, and ways to sell products that will increase efficiency, save money, and promote economic growth at home and abroad. We have an opportunity to make our technology and products part of sustainable solutions all over the world.

Developing a green economy will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, make our communities healthier, and ensure that our Main Street businesses are more resilient. An economy that not only manages negative social and environmental impacts but encourages "triple bottom line" results -- for people, the planet and profits -- is an economy that's poised to succeed. We will reduce the risks of costly health problems like asthma, cancer and learning disabilities. Healthy, vibrant communities will attract new homebuyers and tourists. And innovative American companies will continue to bring solutions to consumers around the world.

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