EU Competition Law and Sustainability: The Need for an Approach Focused on the Objectives of Sustainability Agreements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

129 Downloads (Pure)


EU competition law potentially has a role to play in the pursuit of sustainability goals and the fight against climate change. The need to interpret the EU competition law provisions in a manner consistent with the sustainability objectives that the EU is committed to – the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and the EU Green Deal and derived policies – is emphasised in this article. While agreements between competitors are generally prohibited by Article 101
TFEU, cooperation agreements among market actors pursuing sustainability objectives (sustainability agreements) might in certain situations fall under the cartel exception of Article 101(3) TFEU. In recent years, there have been numerous calls to clarify conditions under which sustainability agreements can be allowed under EU competition law, especially under Article 101(3) TFEU, and there is a heated debate among academics, national competition authorities
(NCAs) and the European Commission. After questioning whether the objectives and measures of the agreements are being properly assessed with the current trends (for example, with the willingness-to-pay method), this article will add
to the debate another possibility involving a broad interpretation of Article 101(3) TFEU under which the pursuit of sustainability agreements will be facilitated. Such a possibility will largely depend on the objectives of the agreements
themselves and may allow a proper consideration of the objectives of a sustainability agreement for certain cases, by focusing on agreements that pursue pre-established objectives derived from international or national standards or concrete policy objectives that are not previously mandatory for the companies involved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-199
Number of pages10
JournalErasmus Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
the development towards ‘an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations’. A broad definition is to be followed when referring to ‘sustainability agreements’ in the competition law context. Among the sustainable objectives of these agreements we may find the protection of the environment, biodiversity and addressing climate change, public health, animal welfare, fair trade, working conditions, etc. This broad definition of ‘sustainability agreements’ is also supported by the European Commission (European Commission, ‘Draft Guidelines on the Applicability of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to Horizontal Cooperation Agreements’ (2022), paras. 541-43).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Boom Uitgevers. All rights reserved.

Research programs

  • SAI 2010-01 RRL


Dive into the research topics of 'EU Competition Law and Sustainability: The Need for an Approach Focused on the Objectives of Sustainability Agreements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this