Sustainability Collaborations

The Commerce Commission has released its Collaboration and Sustainability Guidelines.  The Guidelines explain the Commission's approach to competitor collaborations where the collaboration has sustainability goals.  The Guidelines include a step-by-step process for businesses to follow to reduce the risk that competitors breach the Commerce Act 1986 when they collaborate. 

The Commission encourages lawful collaboration between businesses seeking to advance sustainability objectives.  However, the Commission emphasises that any collaboration must not be a front for anti-competitive behaviour.  Our previous update, 'Green cartels: climate change and competition law', provides further information about competition law risks that can arise when collaborating with a competitor to advance environmental goals and climate change initiatives.

The Guidelines highlight examples of competitor collaborations that may amount to cartel conduct, including industry commitments to sustainability-related standards, product or packaging agreements, supply chain restrictions, infrastructure sharing agreements and product stewardship.  The Guidelines also provide a useful explanation of when collaborative efforts between competitors to support sustainability outcomes will be permissible, for example through joint campaigns to raise awareness about sustainability issues or an industry-wide framework for climate disclosure reporting. 

We strongly recommend that you review any collaborative activities that your business is engaged in or is planning in light of the new Guidelines.  If you have any questions about the Commission's new Guidelines or would like advice on how the Commerce Act applies to your business, please contact a member of our competition law team.

This article was co-authored by Susie Kilty (partner), Anna Parker (special counsel), Georgia Callaghan (solicitor) and Amy Xie (summer clerk).