Search result: 89 articles

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    This study explores the spread of disinformation relating to the Covid-19 pandemic on the internet, dubbed by some as the pandemic’s accompanying “infodemic”, and the societal reactions to this development across different countries and platforms. The study’s focus is on the role of states and platforms in combatting online disinformation.
    Through synthesizing answers to questions submitted by more than 40 researchers from 20 countries within the GDHR Network, this exploratory study provides a first overview of how states and platforms have dealt with Corona-related disinformation. This can also provide incentives for further rigorous studies of disinformation governance standards and their impact across different socio-cultural environments.
    Regarding the platforms’ willingness and efficacy in removing (presumed) disinformation, a majority of submissions identifies a shift towards more intervention in pandemic times. Most submitters assess that this shift is widely welcomed in their respective countries and more often considered as taking place too slowly (rather than being perceived as entailing dangers for unjustified restrictions of freedom of expression). The picture is less clear when it comes to enforcing non-speech related infection prevention measures.
    While the dominant platforms have been able to defend, or even solidify, their position during the pandemic, communicative practices on those platforms are changing. For officials, this includes an increasing reliance on platforms, especially social networks, for communicating infection prevention rules and recommendations. For civil society, the pandemic has brought an increasing readiness – and perceived need – to intervene against disinformation, especially through fact-checking initiatives.
    National and local contexts show great variance at whether platform-driven disinformation is conceived as a societal problem. In countries where official sources are distrusted and/or seen as disseminating disinformation criticism against private information governance by platforms remains muted. In countries where official sources are trusted disinformation present on platforms is seen more negatively.
    While Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram play important roles in the pandemic communication environment, some replies point towards an increasing importance of messaging apps for the circulation of Covid-19-related disinformation. These apps, like Telegram or WhatsApp, tend to fall under the radar of researchers, because visibility of content is limited and scraping is difficult, and because they are not covered by Network Enforcement Act-type laws that usually exclude one-to-one communication platforms (even if they offer one-to-many channels).
    Vis-à-vis widespread calls for a (re)territorialization of their content governance standards and processes amid the pandemic, platform companies have maintained, by and large, global standards. Standardized, featured sections for national (health) authorities to distribute official information via platforms are exceptions thereto.


Matthias C. Kettemann
Prof. dr. Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard) is head of the research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces” at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut.

Martin Fertmann
Martin Fertmann is a PhD student at the Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung | Hans-Bredow-Institut’s research programme “Regulatory Structures and the Emergence of Rules in Online Spaces”.
Article

What Roles Do Forgiveness and Reconciliation Play in Corporate Mediation?

The Relevance of Forgiveness in The Work of Mediators in the Field of Corporate Mediation

Journal Corporate Mediation Journal, Issue 1 2021
Keywords forgiveness, reconciliation, corporate mediation
Authors Klaartje Freeke
AbstractAuthor's information

    The terms forgiveness and reconciliation are not the most frequently used words at the corporate mediation table. However, having been a conflict advisor and mediator for the last 17 years in both corporate and criminal cases, I know that the phenomena of forgiveness and reconciliation exist in all domains. Forgiveness can be found in everyday life, in small gestures and words. While researching this article, I spoke to three corporate mediators to find out what forgiveness and reconciliation look like in their fields of work, and it turns out that they might indeed be more present than one might think.


Klaartje Freeke
C.R.H. (Klaartje) Freeke, attorney and mediator at Freeke & Monster, Amsterdam.
Article

Corporate Mediation and Company Law

State of the Art, Recent Trends and New Opportunities

Journal Corporate Mediation Journal, Issue 1 2021
Keywords corporate dispute, enforcement, mediation clause, stakeholders, sustainability, sustainable development
Authors Valentina Allotti
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article describes the legal framework on corporate mediation in Italy with a particular focus on the effects of the mediation clauses included in company by-laws. The available data on the use of corporate mediation indicate that such clauses are not commonly used. There is still resistance among the parties in a dispute to engage in dialogue through mediation, not only where corporate disputes are concerned. The author suggests that one way to expand the use of mediation would be to promote the introduction of mediation clauses in the articles of association of companies. She also suggests that recent trends in company law, notably the emergence of sustainability issues, related to the impact of business activity on the environment and society, and more broadly on human rights, may create new opportunities for the use of mediation to prevent and solve corporate-related disputes.


Valentina Allotti
Valentina Allotti is a Senior Legal Policy Officer, Capital Markets and Listed Companies Area, Assonime. Views expressed by the author are her own and do not necessarily represent those of Assonime.

Lawrence Kershen
Lawrence Kershen QC is a mediator and restorative justice facilitator in London, United Kingdom. Contact author: kershen@europe.com.
Article

Access_open A future agenda for environmental restorative justice?

Journal The International Journal of Restorative Justice, Issue 1 2021
Keywords restorative justice, restorative practice, environmental justice, environmental regulation
Authors Miranda Forsyth, Deborah Cleland, Felicity Tepper e.a.
AbstractAuthor's information

    The challenges of developing meaningful environmental regulation to protect communities and the environment have never been greater. Environmental regulators are regularly criticised for failing to act hard and consistently, in turn leading to demands for harsher punishments and more rigorous enforcement. Whilst acknowledging the need for strong enforcement to address wantonly destructive practices threatening communities and ecosystems, we argue that restorative approaches have an important role. This article explores a future agenda for environmental restorative justice through (1) situating it within existing scholarly and practice-based environmental regulation traditions; (2) identifying key elements and (3) raising particular theoretical and practical challenges. Overall, our vision for environmental restorative justice is that its practices can permeate the entire regulatory spectrum, going far beyond restorative justice conferences within enforcement proceedings. We see it as a shared and inclusive vision that seeks to integrate, hybridise and build broader ownership for environmental restorative justice throughout existing regulatory practices and institutions, rather than creating parallel structures or paradigms.


Miranda Forsyth
Miranda Forsyth is Associate Professor at the School of Regulation and Governance in the College of Asia and Pacific in the Australian National University, Australia.

Deborah Cleland
Deborah Cleland is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Regulation and Governance in the College of Asia and Pacific in the Australian National University, Australia.

Felicity Tepper
Felicity Tepper is a Senior Research Officer at the School of Regulation and Governance in the College of Asia and Pacific in the Australian National University, Australia.

Deborah Hollingworth
Deborah Hollingworth is a Principal Solicitor at the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, Australia.

Milena Soares
Milena Soares is a public servant at the Técnica de Desenvolvimento e Administração,Brazil.

Alistair Nairn
Alistair Nairn is Senior Engagement Advisor at the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, Australia.

Cathy Wilkinson
Cathy Wilkinson is Professor of Practice at Monash Sustainable Development, Australia. Contact author: miranda.forsyth@anu.edu.au.
Article

Investment Arbitration and the Public Interest

Journal Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law, Issue 1 2020
Keywords BIT, ILA, ISDS, unclean hands, regulatory chill
Authors Gábor Hajdu
AbstractAuthor's information

    The study focuses on analyzing conflicts between (international) investment arbitration and the public interest, dividing its contents into five substantive sections. First, it summarizes the common characteristics of international investment arbitration (distinguishing procedural and substantive elements), followed by its most pressing issues (including frequent criticism such as lack of consistency, asymmetrical proceedings, regulatory chill, etc.). Afterwards, selected investment arbitration cases are examined, grouped based on which areas of public interest they affected (environmental protection, employee rights, public health). These cases all hold relevance and offer different insights into the workings of investment arbitration, which serve to illuminate the complex interplay between foreign investor and public interest. The cases also provide the foundation for the study’s conclusions, where key observations are made on the central subjects.


Gábor Hajdu
Gábor Hajdu: PhD student, University of Szeged.
Article

Access_open The Relationship between Empirical Legal Studies and Doctrinal Legal Research

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2020
Keywords empirical legal studies, legal research methods, doctrinal legal research, new legal realism, critical legal studies, law and policy
Authors Gareth Davies
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article considers how empirical legal studies (ELS) and doctrinal legal research (DLR) interact. Rather than seeing them as competitors that are methodologically independent and static, it suggests that they are interdependent activities, which may each be changed by interaction with the other, and that this change brings both opportunities and threats. For ELS, the article argues that DLR should properly be understood as part of its theoretical framework, yet in practice little attention is given to doctrine in empirical work. Paying more attention to DLR and legal frames generally would help ELS meet the common criticism that it is under-theorised and excessively policy oriented. On the other hand, an embrace of legal thinking, particularly of critical legal thinking, might lead to loss of status for ELS in policy circles and mainstream social science. For DLR, ELS offers a chance for it to escape the threat of insular sterility and irrelevance and to participate in a founded commentary on the world. The risk, however, is that in tailoring legal analysis to what can be empirically researched legal scholars become less analytically ambitious and more safe, and their traditionally important role as a source of socially relevant critique is weakened. Inevitably, in offering different ways of moving to normative conclusions about the law, ELS and DLR pose challenges to each other, and meeting those challenges will require sometimes uncomfortable self-reflection.


Gareth Davies
Gareth Davies is Professor of European Law at the Faculty of Law of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Article

Access_open Basel IV Postponed: A Chance to Regulate Shadow Banking?

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2020
Keywords Basel Accords, EU Law, shadow banking, financial stability, prudential regulation
Authors Katarzyna Parchimowicz and Ross Spence
AbstractAuthor's information

    In the aftermath of the 2007 global financial crisis, regulators have agreed a substantial tightening of prudential regulation for banks operating in the traditional banking sector (TBS). The TBS is stringently regulated under the Basel Accords to moderate financial stability and to minimise risk to government and taxpayers. While prudential regulation is important from a financial stability perspective, the flipside is that the Basel Accords only apply to the TBS, they do not regulate the shadow banking sector (SBS). While it is not disputed that the SBS provides numerous benefits given the net credit growth of the economy since the global financial crisis has come from the SBS rather than traditional banking channels, the SBS also poses many risks. Therefore, the fact that the SBS is not subject to prudential regulation is a cause of serious systemic concern. The introduction of Basel IV, which compliments Basel III, seeks to complete the Basel framework on prudential banking regulation. On the example of this set of standards and its potential negative consequences for the TBS, this paper aims to visualise the incentives for TBS institutions to move some of their activities into the SBS, and thus stress the need for more comprehensive regulation of the SBS. Current coronavirus crisis forced Basel Committee to postpone implementation of the Basel IV rules – this could be perceived as a chance to complete the financial regulatory framework and address the SBS as well.


Katarzyna Parchimowicz
Katarzyna Parchimowicz, LLM. Finance (Frankfurt), is PhD candidate at the University of Wrocław, Poland, and Young Researcher at the European Banking Institute, Frankfurt, Germany.

Ross Spence
Ross Spence, EURO-CEFG, is PhD Fellow at Leiden University Law School, and Young Researcher at the European Banking Institute and Research Associate at the Amsterdam Centre for Law and Economics.

Aleksandar Marsavelski
Aleksandar Marsavelski is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb, Croatia.

Lode Walgrave
Lode Walgrave is Professor Emeritus in Criminology at the University Leuven, Belgium, and member of the Editorial team of TIJRJ.
Article

Access_open Access and Reuse of Machine-Generated Data for Scientific Research

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2019
Keywords machine-generated data, Internet of Things, scientific research, personal data, GDPR
Authors Alexandra Giannopoulou
AbstractAuthor's information

    Data driven innovation holds the potential in transforming current business and knowledge discovery models. For this reason, data sharing has become one of the central points of interest for the European Commission towards the creation of a Digital Single Market. The value of automatically generated data, which are collected by Internet-connected objects (IoT), is increasing: from smart houses to wearables, machine-generated data hold significant potential for growth, learning, and problem solving. Facilitating researchers in order to provide access to these types of data implies not only the articulation of existing legal obstacles and of proposed legal solutions but also the understanding of the incentives that motivate the sharing of the data in question. What are the legal tools that researchers can use to gain access and reuse rights in the context of their research?


Alexandra Giannopoulou
Institute for Information Law (IViR) – University of Amsterdam.

    This article relies on the premise that to understand the significance of Open Access Repositories (OARs) it is necessary to know the context of the debate. Therefore, it is necessary to trace the historical development of the concept of copyright as a property right. The continued relevance of the rationales for copyright interests, both philosophical and pragmatic, will be assessed against the contemporary times of digital publishing. It follows then discussion about the rise of Open Access (OA) practice and its impact on conventional publishing methods. The present article argues about the proper equilibrium between self-interest and social good. In other words, there is a need to find a tool in order to balance individuals’ interests and common will. Therefore, there is examination of the concept of property that interrelates justice (Plato), private ownership (Aristotle), labour (Locke), growth of personality (Hegel) and a bundle of rights that constitute legal relations (Hohfeld). This examination sets the context for the argument.


Nikos Koutras
Postdoctoral Researcher, Faculty of Law, University of Antwerp.
Article

Access_open Putting the Dutch Child Labour Due Diligence Act into Perspective

An Assessment of the CLDD Act’s Legal and Policy Relevance in the Netherlands and Beyond

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords Mandatory Due Diligence, Responsible Business Conduct, Child Labour Due Diligence Act
Authors Liesbeth Enneking
AbstractAuthor's information

    In May 2019, the Dutch senate adopted a private member’s bill introducing a due diligence obligation for companies bringing goods or services onto the Dutch market with respect to the use of child labour in their supply chains. The aim of this article is to place this Child Labour Due Diligence (CLDD) Act in the national and international legal context and to discuss its relevance for the broader debate on international responsible business conduct (IRBC) in global value chains. The article shows that the CLDD Act introduces a due diligence obligation in this context that is new to Dutch law, as is the public law supervisor that is to be tasked with its enforcement. However, it does nothing to broaden the possibilities for access to remedies for victims of child labour beyond those already in existence. The article also shows that when compared with 2017 the French Duty of Vigilance Law, which is the only other mandatory due diligence law to have been adopted so far, the CLDD Act stands out in several respects. It is overshadowed, however, by the European parliament’s recent adoption of an ambitious outline for a future EU due diligence directive. Nonetheless, in view of the fact that it remains unclear for now whether the future EU directive on this topic will display the same level of ambition as the current proposal, the CLDD Act will remain relevant from an international perspective also for some time to come.


Liesbeth Enneking
Liesbeth Enneking is Professor of Legal Aspects of International Corporate Social Responsibility at Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Article

Access_open Waste Away

Examining Systemic Drivers of Global Waste Trafficking Based on a Comparative Analysis of Two Dutch Cases

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords environmental crime, waste industry, shipbreaking, waste trafficking, environmental enforcement
Authors Karin van Wingerde and Lieselot Bisschop
AbstractAuthor's information

    The increasing volume of waste generated globally is one of the most prominent environmental issues we face today. Companies responsible for the treatment or disposal of waste are therefore among the key actors in fostering a sustainable future. Yet the waste industry has often been characterised as a criminogenic one, causing environmental harm which disproportionately impacts the world’s most vulnerable regions and populations. In this article, we illustrate how companies operating in global supply chains exploit legal and enforcement asymmetries and market complexities to trade waste with countries where facilities for environmentally sound treatment and disposal of waste are lacking. We draw on two contemporary cases of corporate misconduct in the Global South by companies with operating headquarters in the Global North: Seatrade and Probo Koala. We compare these cases building on theories about corporate and environmental crime and its enforcement. This explorative comparative analysis aims to identify the key drivers and dynamics of illegal waste dumping, while also exploring innovative ways to make the waste sector more environmentally responsible and prevent the future externalisation of environmental harm.


Karin van Wingerde
Karin van Wingerde is Professor Corporate Crime and Governance, Department of Criminology, Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Lieselot Bisschop
Lieselot Bisschop is Professor Public and Private Interests, Department of Criminology and Erasmus Initiative on Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity, Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Article

Access_open The Dutch International Responsible Business Conduct Agreements

Effective Initiatives?

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords IRBC Agreements, effectiveness, OECD due diligence, access to remedy
Authors Martijn Scheltema
AbstractAuthor's information

    This contribution analyses the effectiveness of the Dutch International Responsible Business Conduct (IRBC) agreements and suggests some avenues for improvement. Several challenges in connection with effectiveness have been identified in evaluations of the IRBC agreements, and these are used as a starting point for the analysis. The focus is on three themes: (i) uptake, leverage and collaboration; (ii) implementation of OECD due diligence including monitoring and (iii) access to remedy. This contribution shows that low uptake may not be a sign of ineffectiveness per se, although in terms of leverage a sufficient number of participants or collaboration between agreements seems important. In connection with due diligence, it is recommended to align the implementation of OECD due diligence. Furthermore, an effective monitoring mechanism by a secretariat, as is currently implemented in the Textile agreement only, is most likely to bring about material changes in business behaviour. Other types of supervision seem less effective. Access to remedy poses a challenge in all IRBC agreements. It is recommended that the expectations the agreements have on access to remedy be clarified, also in connection with the role of signatories to the agreements in cases where they are directly linked to human rights abuse. Furthermore, it is recommended that a dispute resolution mechanism be introduced that enables complaints for external stakeholders against business signatories, comparable to that of the Textile agreement. However, rather than implementing separate mechanisms in all agreements, an overarching mechanism for all agreements should be introduced.


Martijn Scheltema
Martijn Scheltema is Professor of Private law at Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Article

Access_open The Potential of the Dutch Corporate Governance Model for Sustainable Governance and Long Term Stakeholder Value

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords corporate governance, company law, stakeholders, Dutch Corporate Governance Code, long-termism
Authors Manuel Lokin and Jeroen Veldman
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article addresses the question of how the Dutch regulatory and institutional setting enables policy coherence, specifically with regard to safeguarding stakeholders’ interests and promoting sustainable governance. To address this question, we engage with idiosyncratic theoretical notions in the Dutch corporate governance model. We follow the evolution of these notions in statutory company law and case law, their development in the Dutch Corporate Governance Code and their relation to the Enterprise Chamber as a unique institution. We establish how these theoretical views and practical institutions present significant means by which stakeholder concerns may be represented in the operation of company law and corporate governance more broadly and provide a number of ways in which these institutions and their operation can be further developed.


Manuel Lokin
Manuel Lokin is Professor of Company Law at Utrecht University and lawyer at Stibbe, Amsterdam.

Jeroen Veldman
Jeroen Veldman is Visiting Professor at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Innovation at Mines ParisTech in Paris, France and Honorary Senior Visiting Fellow at Cass Business School in London, UK.
Introduction

Access_open Towards Responsible Business Conduct in Global Value Chains

Relevant Legal Developments in the Netherlands

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords responsible business conduct, business and human rights, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development, the Netherlands
Authors Liesbeth Enneking and Jeroen Veldman
AbstractAuthor's information

    The past few decades have seen an increasing scrutiny of the impacts – both positive and negative – that companies have on the societies in which they operate. The search for adequate responses to such scrutiny is reflected in developments in the societal, political and academic debate on three separate but interrelated concepts: corporate social responsibility, business and human rights and responsible business conduct. The focus in this Special Issue will be on law and policy relating to responsible business conduct in global value chains. The contributions in this Special Issue identify relevant developments and institutions in the Netherlands, including rules and regulations related to trade, investment and corporate governance as well as cases related to corporate and consumer responsibilities, and assess their role in relation to the potential to provide a positive response to the concern about the human and environmental impacts of business activities. Together, they provide a multi-perspective view of relevant gaps and/or best practices with regard to regulatory governance in the Netherlands while at the same time enabling a comparative debate on the extent to which these diverse developments and institutions are in line with stated policy goals in this context both at national and EU levels. In doing so, this Special Issue aims to contribute to further coherence between national and EU policies with regard to RBC in global value chains and sustainable development.


Liesbeth Enneking
Liesbeth Enneking is Professor of Legal Aspects of International Corporate Social Responsibility at Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Jeroen Veldman
Jeroen Veldman is Visiting Associate Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Visiting Associate Professor at Mines Paristech, Interdisciplinary Institute for Innovation, Paris and Section Editor Corporate Governance at the Journal of Business Ethics.
Article

Access_open The New Dutch Model Investment Agreement

On the Road to Sustainability or Keeping up Appearances?

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords Dutch model BIT, foreign direct investment, bilateral investment treaties, investor-to-state dispute settlement, sustainable development goals
Authors Alessandra Arcuri and Bart-Jaap Verbeek
AbstractAuthor's information

    In 2019, the Dutch government presented a New Model Investment Agreement that seeks to contribute to the sustainability and inclusivity of future Dutch trade and investment policy. This article offers a critical analysis of the most relevant parts of the revised model text in order to appraise to what extent it could promote sustainability and inclusivity. It starts by providing an overview of the Dutch BIT (Bilateral Investment Treaty) programme, where the role of the Netherlands as a favourite conduit country for global FDI is highlighted. In the article, we identify the reasons why the Netherlands became a preferred jurisdiction for foreign investors and the negative implications for governments and their policy space to advance sustainable development. The 2019 model text is expressly set out to achieve a fairer system and to protect ‘sustainable investment in the interest of development’. While displaying a welcome engagement with key values of sustainable development, this article identifies a number of weaknesses of the 2019 model text. Some of the most criticised substantive and procedural provisions are being reproduced in the model text, including the reiteration of investors’ legitimate expectation as an enforceable right, the inclusion of an umbrella clause, and the unaltered broad coverage of investments. Most notably, the model text continues to marginalise the interests of investment-affected communities and stakeholders, while bestowing exclusive rights and privileges on foreign investors. The article concludes by hinting at possible reforms to better align existing and future Dutch investment treaties with the sustainable development goals.


Alessandra Arcuri
Alessandra Arcuri is Professor at Erasmus School of Law and Erasmus Initiative Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Bart-Jaap Verbeek
Bart-Jaap Verbeek is Researcher at Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen (SOMO) and PhD Candidate Political Science at the Radboud University.
Article

Access_open Due Diligence and Supply Chain Responsibilities in Specific Instances

The Compatibility of the Dutch National Contact Point’s Decisions With the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in the Light of Decisions Made by the UK, German, Danish and Norwegian National Contact Points

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords due diligence, supply chain, OECD, NCP, specific instance
Authors Sander van ’t Foort
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since the introduction of a human rights chapter in the 2011 OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, National Contact Points (NCPs) have been increasingly dealing with specific instances referring to human rights violations by companies. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the human rights provisions are the most cited provisions of the Guidelines. Specific instances include allegations such as a company’s failure to implement human rights due diligence, to apply the principles of free, prior and informed consent, to take supply chain responsibility, and/or to comply with the right to cultural heritage. Of all topics, human rights due diligence and human rights supply chain responsibilities are most commonly referred to in complaints based on the Guidelines. This article focuses on how NCPs have handled these topics of human rights due diligence and supply chain responsibility in specific instances. The Dutch NCP has been selected because it is celebrated in literature as the ‘gold standard’ because of its composition including independent members, its forward-looking approach, and because it is one of the most active NCPs in the world. All decisions of the Dutch NCP concerning these two topics are analysed in the light of the decisions of four other NCPs (UK, Denmark, Germany and Norway). A doctrinal methodology is used to analyse similarities and differences between the argumentations of the five NCPs.


Sander van ’t Foort
Sander van ’t Foort is Lecturer at Nyenrode Business University.
Article

Access_open Consumer Social Responsibility in Dutch Law

A Case Study on the Role of Consumers in Energy Transition

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2019
Keywords consumer, energy transition, social responsibility, Dutch law, EU law
Authors Katalin Cseres
AbstractAuthor's information

    As our economies continue to focus on growth, competition and maximisation of consumer choice, the global increase in consumption takes vast environmental and social costs and cause irreversible harm to our climate and environment. The urgency of reducing human footprint and to diminish one of the root causes of a declining climate and environment is irrefutable. In the shift that globally has to take place, a decentralised energy system relying on more distributed generation, energy storage and a more active involvement of consumers form a crucial component of renewable energy solutions. The move from a highly centralised to a more decentralised power system involves an increasing amount of small-scale (intermittent) generation from renewable energy which is located closer to the point of final consumption. In order to steer consumption towards sustainability national governments and supranational organisations have adopted policies and corresponding legislation that address individual consumers as rational and active choice-makers who make socially responsible choices when they receive the ‘right’ amount of information. By relying on insights from modern consumption theories with contributions from sociology, this article questions the effectiveness and legitimacy of these ‘consumer-centred’ policies and laws. First, the article argues that the single focus on individual consumer behaviour as a rational and utility maximising market actor fails to take into account the complexity of consumption, which is fundamentally influenced by social norms and its broader institutional setting. Although consumers are willing to consume more sustainably, they are often ‘locked in by circumstances’ and unable to engage in more sustainable consumption practices even if they want to. Second, by relying on evidence from sociological studies the article argues that individual consumers are not the most salient actors in support of sustainable consumption. Even though the urgency of the energy transition and the critical role consumers play in (un)sustainable energy consumption is acknowledged in both the EU and its Member States, their laws and policies remain grounded on goals of economic growth with competitive economies, the sovereignty of consumer choice and wealth maximisation, instead of aiming at slower economic growth or even degrowth, reducing overall resource use and consumption levels and introducing radically different ways of consumption.
    Third, the role of law is underlined as a social institution both as a constraint on the autonomous acts of consumption, dictating the normative frameworks within which the role of consumer is defined, and as a facilitator which consumers might also employ, in order to determine for themselves particular normative parameters within which consumption can occur.
    The Netherlands, which serves as a case study in this article, has reached important milestones in its energy transition policy since 2013. Still, it remains strongly focused on economic rationality and market competitiveness. Even though various models of consumer participation exist and local consumer energy initiatives are flourishing and are recognised as key actors in the energy transition, they remain embedded in institutional, structural and behavioural settings where consumers still face challenging sociocultural barriers to sustainable practices.
    In light of these legal, political and social complexity of energy transition, the article offers a critical analysis of the current Dutch law in its broader legal context of EU law in order to answer the question what the role of (energy) law is in steering consumers towards sustainable energy consumption.


Katalin Cseres
Katalin Cseres is Associate Professor of Law, Amsterdam Centre for European Law & Governance (ACELG), University of Amsterdam.
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