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Sustainable development and competition law: Survey report

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This global survey was the Special Project of the Hungarian Competition Authority as the host of the 2021 ICN Annual Conference.

It gathered information about the existing experience and predictions of competition agencies as well as about the views of the experienced non-governmental advisors of the ICN regarding the application of environmental sustainability considerations in competition law enforcement, with a particular focus on restrictive agreements.

While so far there has been a very little, albeit growing body of experience, limited mostly to Europe, business practices that give rise to the issue are likely to continue and spread, posing a challenge to competition agencies and other stakeholders worldwide.

Meeting that challenge – i.e., whether, when and how to incorporate sustainability considerations into competition assessment – requires effort, such as co-operation and capacity building, but it is not expected to entail paradigmatic change.

Legislative action does not seem to be essential, or timely per se, yet it may be instrumental in certain – perhaps many – jurisdictions. At the same time, soft laws and other tools that provide guidance have already been called for by practitioners.

Apparently, however, the precondition for progress in most regards is ‘competition policy R&D’, which is needed to overcome currently unresolved analytical and measurement issues, most urgently concerning ‘green agreements’ and their ‘sustainability defence’.

Although signs of regional convergence in Europe were found, the survey remained inconclusive as to whether convergence or divergence is unfolding at the global level. In any case, the majority of the respondents are of the opinion that international organisations have an important role to play.

Finally, the results may inspire further research, including an eventual update of this survey.

All appendices (and the survey report itself) are available at: https://www.gvh.hu/en/gvh/Conference/icn-2021-annual-conference/special-project-for-the-2021-icn-annual-conference-sustainable-development-and-competition-law

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