Roundtable Discussion - Competition Law and Sustainability

We face a Climate Emergency in which “business as usual” is not an option and in which a rapid move to more sustainable development is vital. But if rival businesses cooperate in pursuing sustainability goals, for example observing higher emission standards, do they risk infringing the competition laws? Beyond climate change, how about the fight against poverty and child labour? Do rivals inevitably break the law if they all agree to pay extra for crops bought from smallholder farmers?

Can the “consumer welfare” straitjacket which has dominated antitrust in recent years be adapted to help? Or is there a bolder solution, in which competition law is applied explicitly in pursuit of other societal goals?

This roundtable discussion will address a debate newly active in antitrust circles on sustainability. It aims to provide tools for a structured examination of competition law’s perceived inability to assist in these matters. For example, how to give effect to Article 11 TFEU which mandates that “environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union’s policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development”?

Do our competition law agencies have the democratic legitimacy to balance economic and societal goals, and what tools do they need for that purpose? How can competition law be part of the solution and not part of the problem?