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Applying voluntary tools to achieve Sustainable Consumption and Production: collaboration between the European Commission and the retail sector

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This article analyses recent activities undertaken by the European Commission in collaboration with retailers and other stakeholders to help achieve sustainable consumption and production (SCP) as proposed in its SCP/SIP Action Plan. The focus is on the setting up and functioning of a Retail Forum. These activities are seen in the wider context of the use of “soft law” and, in particular, of voluntary environmental agreements as an effective alternative to regulatory measures in promoting sustainable development both along the supply chain and as regards consumers. The article suggests that the voluntary approach can be extremely useful to promote sustainable consumption and production provided that some essential conditions are met: voluntary commitments must be verifiable, they need the right level of ambition and they must involve a wide range of actors. In particular, the article explores the feasibility of developing a code of conduct for the retail sector.


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