2023 progress report
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Combatting climate change will require contributions on many fronts, and businesses and competition authorities alike play a crucial role in this context.
However, competition authorities and legislators could and should adjust antitrust policy to ensure a more transparent and certain environment for companies to pursue sustainability goals jointly, and to assess cooperations pragmatically when the parties can demonstrate that the main objective is reaching a sustainability goal.
Giving companies incentives to align their practices with sustainability and climate objectives will demand a comprehensive set of policies and regulations that cover all sectors of the economy
Businesses commonly cite a lack of clear guidelines, experience, debate and legal uncertainty as a reason for dialling back on joint initiatives with competitors aimed at addressing climate change.
In the recent past, several competition authorities have acted on those and other concerns of businesses. They published guidelines to enhance transparency in antitrust assessments and organised seminars with academic and business representatives.
The progress report highlights several more developments:
A general trend has evolved in the last year towards broader recognition of the potential benefits of sustainability cooperation, even as antitrust authorities stay wary of and keep taking action against greenwashing and collusion.
The attention given to the topic has increased tremendously since the 2022 United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27). In the report, ICC highlights that a growing number of competition authorities provide practical guidance to business to help advance green projects. This includes green guidelines and soft law documents clarifying how they assess sustainability agreements, legislative amendments, new case law, sandbox projects and seminars promoted by the agencies to keep the agenda moving forward.
There is growing consensus around the world that competition authorities have a key role to play in fostering sustainable development, by allowing businesses to collaborate in initiatives supporting the environment and sustainability. But not everyone is on board yet. The report identifies a particular need for US and Chinese antitrust agencies, among others, to join in the trend.
A key step to supporting climate action is to properly integrate sustainability economics in competition policy, taking account of market failures and collective action problems. Examples for supportive measures are guidelines that assess concrete cases involving in-depth discussions on the intersection between sustainability and competition.
Leveraging our diverse and experienced global network, ICC continues to provide real-world business cases of companies looking to cooperate with competitors or take sustainability-driven actions to contribute to the fight against climate change. The cases show initiatives that were abandoned for fear of breaking competition rules and resulting lessons learned.
By listing key developments in several jurisdictions, ICC aims to raise awareness of potential benefits and areas of sustainability cooperation. Both looking back and ahead, ICC welcomes efforts by competition authorities who adapted or plan to adapt antitrust policies in alignment with sustainable objectives.