By David Levine, Skytop Contributing Author
22, 2021

David Levine, Co-founder & President, American Sustainable Business Council

David Levine is the co-founder and President of the American Sustainable Business Council, a coalition of business organizations and businesses, collectively representing over 250,000 businesses, committed to advancing market shifts and public policies that support a vibrant, just and sustainable economy. 

David is also a principal partner at Miracle Springs Farm, a goat dairy and family farm in the Hudson Valley.

He has worked as a social entrepreneur for over 30 years focusing on the development of whole systems solutions for a more sustainable society through building strategic partnerships and broad stakeholders initiatives.  Previously, he was the Founding Director of Continuing Education & Public Programs at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. From 1984-1997, David was Founder and executive director of the Learning Alliance, an independent popular education organization.


The COVID-19 crisis has thus far killed far too many people and put tens of millions of Americans out of work. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed what many of us already knew–that our current economic system does not work for most Americans. Challenges such as income inequality, market consolidation, climate change and infrastructure collapse have posed increasing threats to our economy, our social stability and our continued leadership in the world. Too many Americans, moreover, Republicans and Democrats alike, view our current system as rigged against them.

The task of finding our way through this crisis has fallen heavily to state and local leaders. Even with the passage of federal stimulus bills these state and local leaders will remain in the driver’s seat, and they now need bold ideas to move their states and communities forward. The business community can and must play an essential role in identifying and implementing the solutions working alongside state and local governments.  

In order to address this still looming crisis the American Sustainable Business Council mounted a collaborative effort of over 60 organizations that charted a responsible and sustainable pathway for the reopening of local and state economies.

The State and Local Recommendations for Reopening the Economy Report provides a policy blueprint for what state and local leaders can do immediately. It covers a range of topics including Reframing Economic Development Practices, Banking, Finance & Procurement, Well-being, Health & Safety, Climate & Energy, Food Systems, Water, Education, Broadband and Mobility 

We believe that this moment provides state and local governments working with business an opportunity not only to continue leading the way through this crisis but also in solving the structural problems the federal government has too long neglected. 

The policy ideas detailed provide a blueprint for what state and local leaders can do immediately. Most of our suggested policies effectively provide not only economic stimulus but lasting social, environmental, and public benefit. Many will attract support across party lines. Some cost little or nothing. 

While the leaders that developed the recommendations are diverse, we united around a number of basic propositions: 

  • We believe business can and should play a positive role in our society, and that business has responsibilities to multiple stakeholders, not just investors. 
  • We believe state and local governments have a role side-by-side with the marketplace: to structure markets so they work effectively, to manage the impact of externalities, and to ensure that public resources receive stewardship for the long term. 
  • We believe that not only is a sustainable economy compatible with shared prosperity, environmental protection and regeneration and social justice – it is essential from both a moral and pragmatic standpoint that we restructure our economy to achieve this balance. 
  • We believe that a market-based economy is the most powerful engine of prosperity yet devised. At the same time, the market must be structured differently than it is today for the good of all Americans, and the billions of other people who share this planet.

To address a pathway out of our present economic problems we must move away from local and national economic development policies that only encourage and support big business exclusively. Small business provides 85% of all job growth and accounts for 95% of all business in the nation. By directing resources and policies to small businesses building thriving local communities, we create a healthy sustainable economic ecosystem. This, in turn, builds a strong and resilient nation. 

To address banking, finance and procurement we recommended that state and local officials could generate trillions of dollars in new stimulus for their economies—at low or no cost—by shifting public and private capital into local banks and local investments, and by transforming their procurement systems. Nearly $4 trillion in taxes is spent by state and local governments each year. State securities laws also influence where $56 trillion of housing finance is invested. Today, long-term household savings go almost entirely into global stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds and insurance funds, even though 60-80% of our economy is made up of local business (depending on how “local” is defined). 

Together, through local investment, equity and accountability we can rebuild our post-COVID economy stronger, more sustainable and enduringly just. To further build on the Recommendations Report, we welcome and encourage your recommendations, questions, comments and additional resources below.

To download the report and view the recommendations 

To contact ASBC –