Verwendete Dienste und Cookies

Unsere Website nutzt Cookies, um Ihre Nutzungserfahrung zu verbessern. Einige Cookies sind essentiell für das Funktionieren und Managen der Seite, während andere für anonyme Statistiken oder personalisierte Inhalte verwendet werden. Bitte beachten Sie, dass bei eingeschränkter Cookie-Nutzung bestimmte Webseitenfunktionen beeinträchtigt sein können.

Weitere Informationen: Impressum, Datenschutz

Notwendige Cookies helfen dabei, eine Webseite nutzbar zu machen, indem sie Grundfunktionen wie Seitennavigation und Zugriff auf sichere Bereiche der Webseite ermöglichen oder z.B. Ihre Cookie-Einstellungen speichern. Die Webseite kann ohne diese Cookies nicht richtig funktionieren. Diese Kategorie kann nicht deaktiviert werden.
  • Name:
  • Domain:
  • Zweck:
    Speichert die Cookie-Einstellungen der Website-Besucher.
  • Name:
  • Domain:
  • Zweck:
    Der Session-Cookie ist für das grundlegende Funktionieren der Website unerlässlich. Er ermöglicht es den Nutzern, durch die Website zu navigieren und ihre grundlegenden Funktionen zu nutzen.
  • Name:
  • Domain:
  • Zweck:
    Dieser Cookie dient der Sicherheit und hilft, Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)-Angriffe zu verhindern. Er ist technisch notwendig.
Diese Cookies sammeln Informationen darüber, wie Sie eine Website nutzen, z. B. welche Seiten Sie besucht und auf welche Links Sie geklickt haben.
  • Name:
  • Domain:
  • Zweck:
    Das Google Analytics Cookie _ga wird verwendet, um Benutzer zu unterscheiden, indem es eine eindeutige Identifikationsnummer für jeden Besucher vergibt. Diese Nummer wird bei jedem Seitenaufruf an Google Analytics gesendet, um Nutzer-, Sitzungs- und Kampagnendaten zu sammeln und die Nutzung der Website statistisch auszuwerten. Das Cookie hilft Website-Betreibern zu verstehen, wie Besucher mit der Website interagieren, indem es Informationen anonym sammelt und Berichte generiert.
  • Name:
  • Domain:
  • Zweck:
    Das Cookie _ga_[container_id], spezifisch für Google Analytics 4 (GA4), dient der Unterscheidung von Website-Besuchern durch Zuweisung einer einzigartigen ID für jede Sitzung und jeden Nutzer. Es ermöglicht die Sammlung und Analyse von Daten über das Nutzerverhalten auf der Website in anonymisierter Form. Dies umfasst das Tracking von Seitenaufrufen, Interaktionen und dem Weg, den Nutzer auf der Website zurücklegen, um Website-Betreibern tiefere Einblicke in die Nutzung ihrer Seite zu geben und die Benutzererfahrung zu verbessern.
  • Name:
  • Domain:
  • Zweck:
    Das Cookie _gid ist ein von Google Analytics gesetztes Cookie, das dazu dient, Benutzer zu unterscheiden. Es weist jedem Besucher der Website eine einzigartige Identifikationsnummer zu, die bei jedem Seitenaufruf an Google Analytics gesendet wird. Dies ermöglicht es, das Nutzerverhalten auf der Website über einen Zeitraum von 24 Stunden zu verfolgen und zu analysieren.
  • Name:
  • Domain:
  • Zweck:
    Das Cookie _gat_gtag_UA_77241503_1 ist Teil von Google Analytics und Google Tag Manager und wird verwendet, um die Anfragerate zu drosseln, d.h., es begrenzt die Datensammlung auf Websites mit hohem Verkehrsaufkommen. Dieses Cookie ist mit einer spezifischen Google Analytics-Property-ID (in diesem Fall UA-77241503-1) verknüpft, was bedeutet, dass es für die Leistungsüberwachung und -steuerung der Datenerfassung für diese spezielle Website-Property eingesetzt wird.

Competition and Sustainability – New Guidance from Brussels


When the President of the European Commission (Commission), Ursula von der Leyen, announced the adoption of the European Green Deal – a roadmap to a sustainable economy – in 2019, she called it Europe’s “man on the moon moment”. The achievement of the multidisciplinary objectives gathered under the Green Deal is a priority on the EU agenda and the Commission has taken yet another step on lunar soil yesterday in a steady commitment to firm its grip and gain some traction on this new planet.

On January 10th, the Commission published draft Guidelines for sustainability agreements in the field of agriculture and opened a public consultation on these. Sustainability agreements (see also our briefing of 25 January 2022) are generally set high on the Commission’s antitrust agenda, which most recently became apparent by the fact that the Commission devoted a specific chapter to the matter in the draft revised Horizontal Guidelines. Even though the practical relevance of the guidance provided therein so far has been heavily doubted, there may still be hope that the Commission refines this chapter and provides more substance by the time the Guidelines will be published (expected in spring 2023).

Background on the sector-specific exemption

To support the EU transition to a sustainable food system, a provision was introduced in December 2021 to allow competition restrictions in horizontal or vertical agreements in the agricultural sector provided they are indispensable to achieve sustainability standards exceeding the mandatory EU and national standards (Article 210a CMO Regulation).

However, it remained rather uncertain to stakeholders what sort of cooperation would actually benefit from the antitrust exclusion. It became apparent that further guidance from regulators was necessary in order to bring the intention of stimulating the uptake of sustainable practices beyond statutory requirements to life and encourage green cooperation initiatives in the sector.

Special Guidance for agri-food stakeholders

The Commission first made a call for evidence in 2022 to identify the main questions and concerns of agri-food stakeholders. Now the draft Guidelines intend to provide more direction on the scope of the exclusion and conditions for application, which are summarized below.

Scope of the exemption

Art. 210a only applies to agreements that directly relate to the production or trade of agricultural products listed in Annex I of the TFEU (other than fishery and aquaculture products). The Commission clarifies in the draft Guidelines that if an agreement concerns both agricultural products (e.g. tomato certification) and non-agricultural products (e.g. tomato sauce), the provision exclusively applies to the agricultural part.

As a result, at least one producer of agricultural products should be party to the agreement. The producer may enter into an agreement with other producers (horizontal agreements) and/or operators (including associations) at different levels of the supply chain, e.g. companies supplying production inputs, retailers and wholesalers (vertical agreements).

Eligible sustainability objectives

Sustainability standards are defined in the Regulation in a comprehensive way and include initiatives which contribute to one or more of the following objectives:

(i) environmental objectives (e.g. climate change mitigation, sustainable resource use, and reduction of waste),

(ii) reducing the use of pesticides (or better manage the risks entailed), and/or

(iii) promoting animal health and welfare.

The draft Guidelines clarify that even though social and economic objectives are part of a comprehensive ESG initiative (e.g. improved working conditions and fair remuneration of farmers), such objectives are not taken into account when assessing compliance of a given agreement with Art. 210a.

Requirements for sustainability standards

In order to benefit from the exemption, the pursued sustainability standard must be higher than the mandatory standard (if existent) or (in the absence of a mandatory EU or national standard) than the de facto level of sustainability. Where the national standard is higher than the EU standard, operators in that Member State must acknowledge the higher national standard. Also, if during the course of an agreement, more ambitious EU or national standards are adopted, the agreement will cease to benefit from Art. 210a.

How to assess indispensability

To assess whether the restrictions on competition resulting from an agreement are indispensable to reach an improved level of sustainability, a two-step test applies. First, the agreement as such must be reasonably necessary to attain the pursued sustainability standard. Second, the restrictions of competition must be indispensable. In order to assess this, the parties should

(i) identify obstacles that would prevent them from reaching the objective on a stand-alone basis (e.g. lack of expertise, high investments) and be able to explain why a collaboration is necessary,

(ii) bear in mind that the provisions should be the least possible restrictive on competition, particularly where there is more than one suitable approach (e.g. agreement on price or certification),

(iii) take into account that the duration of the restriction should not exceed the time necessary to achieve the goals.

It is worth noting that, different from an exemption under Article 101(3) TFEU, under Art. 210a the burden of proof tends to be lower. As clarified in the draft Guidelines, the parties are not required (i) to analyse the market coverage of a competition restriction to assess whether the agreement is indispensable or (ii) to ensure that consumers receive a fair share of the benefits resulting from the sustainability agreement.

What if agreements fall outside the scope of Art. 210a?

Even if a sustainability agreement in agriculture falls outside the scope of the antitrust exemption, contracting parties can still benefit from the Horizontal and the Vertical block exemption regulations. Moreover, an individual exemption under Article 101(3) TFEU can apply if the conditions are met. Therefore, such agreements should also be assessed in light of the Horizontal and Vertical Guidelines.

Key Takeaways

Alongside the Dutch Consumer & Markets Authority (ACM) and the British & Markets Authority (CMA), who have been the frontrunners with regard to sustainability agreements in Europe, the Commission’s recent initiatives acknowledge the importance of providing more comfort and clearer guidance to companies committed to sustainability initiatives.

Encouraging agri-food operators to join forces towards a more sustainable food value chain is key to the effectiveness of the European Green Deal. It remains to be seen whether the proposed Guidelines to sustainability agreements in agriculture will actually provide the expected boost of green cooperation initiatives in the sector.

BLOMSTEIN will continue to monitor developments and practical application of sustainability agreements under the antitrust framework. If you have any questions on the topic, Anna Blume Huttenlauch, Marie-Luise Heuer and Carolina Vidal will be happy to advise you.

zurück zur Übersicht