On 1 June 2023, the European Commission adopted its new Research & Development and Specialization Block Exemption Regulations, and published the accompanying Horizontal Guidelines. These guidelines also include a chapter on competition and sustainability. In this chapter, the European Commission shows businesses what opportunities for cooperation they have for realizing sustainability objectives.
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) already offered more opportunities on the basis of its own draft guidelines (second draft version) on sustainability agreements. Over the past few years, ACM has also actively stimulated the debate at the European level, and has contributed to the creation of the Horizontal Guidelines. ACM is pleased to see that several of its suggestions have been included in the final version of the Horizontal Guidelines.
ACM’s Guidelines on sustainability agreements
Now that the European Commission's guidelines have been finalized, ACM will bring its draft guidelines on sustainability agreements in line with the European Commission's guidelines. That is because most initiatives in the Netherlands affect interstate trade between Member States. Therefore, European competition rules often also apply alongside Dutch competition rules. ACM is currently assessing whether there is leeway between ACM's current draft guidelines and the European Commission’s guidelines. Discrepancies will be resolved as much as possible by using ACM's prioritization powers. ACM expects to provide more information after the summer.
The Block exemption regulations will enter into force on 1 July 2023. The guidelines of the European Commission will do so after their publication in the Official Journal of the EU.
ACM and sustainability agreements
In the meantime, businesses that wish to make sustainability agreements and have doubts about the application of competition rules continue to be able to request ACM to take a look at their agreements. ACM will then be able to offer a provisional assessment of the opportunities and risks for competition. More information can be found here (in Dutch).