Environmental Voluntary Agreements in the Dutch Context

Johannes T.A. Bressers, Theo de Bruijn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This paper describes and analyses the use of environmental voluntary agreements, or covenants, in Dutch environmental policy. Covenants have become a widely used policy instrument in the Netherlands. This trend reinforces the strong neo-corporatist traits of Dutch society with its tendency towards bargaining and cooperation with interest groups. Over the years an authoritarian and distant policy style with a negative attitude towards target groups has changed into a new approach designed to encourage self-regulation. Instead of simply imposing legislation, the Dutch government often concludes agreements with relevant sectors of industry regarding the implementation of environmental objectives. Through negotiations between sectors of industry, the Ministry of the Environment, and regional governments, agreements are sought concerning the contribution of specific industrial sectors to the goals of the National Environmental Policy Plan. These goals aim for 50–90 percent emission reductions for specified pollutants. Since 1989 many such agreements have been reached. In 2002/2003 we carried out a study on the effectiveness of the covenants, commissioned by the Dutch ministry of the Environment (VROM). The focus in the project was the identification of success and fail factors. Our central conclusion on the use and effects of the covenants is quite positive, although we have also identified several constraints. Most importantly, we found the implementation context highly relevant for covenant success. In this chapter we focus on this context in order to understand the workings of environmental voluntary agreements. We describe the background in which the covenants are used as well as the resultant effects. Furthermore we highlight some guidelines for future use.
Original languageUndefined
Title of host publicationThe handbook of Environmental Voluntary Agreements; Design, Implementation and Evaluation issues
EditorsEdoardo Croci
Place of PublicationHeidelberg
Number of pages391
ISBN (Print)1402033559
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Publication series

NameEnvironment & Policy


  • METIS-230812
  • IR-55362

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