The use of Covenants in Target Group Policy: Evaluating a Dutch Environmental Policy Innovation

Hans Bressers, Theo de Bruijn

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    This paper describes and analyses the use of new policy instruments, covenants, in modern environmental policy in the Netherlands, with a focus on the Target Group Policy, a collaborative sector-based policy program. The new strategy in Dutch environmental policy leans heavily on more voluntary approaches. Voluntary agreements have thus become a widely used policy instrument in the Netherlands. This reinforces the strong neo-corporatist traits of the Dutch society with its tendency towards bargaining and cooperation with interest groups. Over the years the authoritarian policy style with a distant, 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, for example, 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 NEPP. These goals aim for 50-90 percent emission reductions for specified pollutants. Since 1989 more than 70 agreements have been reached, including 11 broad-based agreements (covenants) with sectors of industry.

    In 2002/2003 we carried out a study on the effectiveness of the covenants, commissioned by the Dutch ministry of the Environment (VROM). It was an extensive study that included the industry sector covenants. The focus in the project was on the identification of success and fail factors, building on the insights of a European project Neapol (De Clercq 2002). The project has resulted in a checklist for the future use of covenants. Our central conclusion on the use of the covenants is quite positive, although we have also identified several constraints. In the paper we highlight the guidelines for future use as well as our analysis on why the covenants are relatively successful in the Netherlands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages24
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2003
    Event11th Greening of Industry Network Conference, GIN 2003: Innovating for Sustainability - San Francisco, United States
    Duration: 12 Oct 200315 Oct 2003
    Conference number: 11


    Conference11th Greening of Industry Network Conference, GIN 2003
    Abbreviated titleGIN
    CountryUnited States
    CitySan Francisco


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