The link between the EU Competition Law and sustainability rises in the EU agenda

Yesterday a conference on ‘Sustainability and Competition Policy: Bridging Two Worlds to Enable a Fairer Economy’ brought high-level speakers together, including EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the Committee of the Regions (CoR), the Global Competition Law Centre (GCLC) of the College of Europe, University College London (UCL), and the Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) co-organised the full-day conference ‘Sustainability and Competition Policy: Bridging Two Worlds to Enable a Fairer Economy’ yesterday in Brussels. The event brought together high-level speakers of various fields, including EU officials, Civil Society Organisations, academics, lawyers, industry experts and competition authorities.


On her keynote speech, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager outlined the main discussion, highlighting that “Tackling climate change is an important part of living more sustainably. But it’s only one part of building a more sustainable way of life. And this conference reminds us that businesses have a vital role in helping to create markets that are sustainable in many different ways, and competition policy should support them in doing that.”

The debate revolved around the key question of whether EU competition policy can give weight to sustainability values, and avoid being seen as a barrier to private sector and civil society initiatives intended to deliver sustainability objectives. In this regard, Dario Soto, CEO of Fairtrade International, stressed that “what is right for the consumer is compatible with what is right for the farmers” and that “we should avoid falling into the false dichotomy between a well functioning market and social and environmental sustainability”.

After the opening speeches, there were several panel debates covering current controversies around the consumer welfare standard, the obstacles that industry faces when designing sustainability projects, and insights by several competition agencies. The debate also covered the need for an antitrust exemption for sustainability, or other means of accommodating such goals within the antitrust framework of analysis.

For more information contact Jorge Conesa, Project Coordinator at the FTAO, at conesa@fairtrade-advocacy.org. A full copy of the agenda of the conference is available here.

You can read more about the Fair Trade Advocacy Office’s work on competition law on our Competition Law page here.