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Opportunities for collaborations with regard to sustainable development

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) sees room for undertakings to work together in setting up sustainability initiatives. In some cases, the cartel prohibition does not apply on such initiatives, because an initiative hardly affects the competitive process or it does not affect that process at all. However, in cases in which the competitive process is affected, also, ACM sees opportunities, because sustainable production benefits consumers. Such opportunities can be found in particular in initiatives that create sufficient options for consumers. But even if this is not the case because industry-wide sustainability arrangements are concerned, initiatives may be reconcilable with Dutch and European competition law under certain conditions.

This has been fleshed out in the draft version of the ACM Position Paper on Competition and Sustainability. Chris Fonteijn, Chairman of the Board of ACM, comments: ‘Companies often believe that nothing is allowed. That is not the case. Therefore, we wish to offer more clarity about the possibilities for collaboration with regard to sustainability. It would be a shame if companies did not take advantage of the opportunities for sustainable development because they were not fully aware of them. That would hinder sustainable development, undeservedly so, and would harm consumers and society in general.’

ACM has identified sustainability as one of its key priorities. Earlier this year, ACM launched its Knowledge Bank on Sustainability on its Dutch website. It contains a lot of information that companies can use to assess whether their collaboration plans are allowed.

ACM has made its Position Paper on Competition & Sustainability available for consultation until September 6, 2013. After the consultation round, ACM will finalize its position paper taking into account the comments it will have received. At the same time, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has made the draft version of its Policy Rule on Competition and Sustainable Development available for consultation.