2.1 Effectiveness of policy instruments for SCP

Arnold Tukker , Innovation and Environment, TNO, Delft, Netherlands
Based on a report by Arnold Tukker, Fernando Diaz-Lopez, Martin van de Lindt (TNO, Delft, the Netherlands), Oksana Mont (International Institute of Industrial Ecological Economics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)' Sylvia Lorek, Joachim Spangenberg, Stefan Giljum (Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Cologne/Vienna, Germany/Austria)

Under the EU's FP6, TNO, SERI and Lund University performed a project analysing the effectiveness of policy instruments for SCP (SCOPE2). The project looked at:

  • business initiatives

  • policy instruments

  • systemic approaches

The project did a gap analysis and combined the information from the 3 fields above to conclusions, in the form of a matrix of actors and instruments. This was specified for the domains food, mobility and housing/energy use. Instruments are divided into established instruments, under-explored instruments, and innovative instruments (color codes used in the tables in the report). Some illustrative examples include:

Housing/energy use

  • Establish a top runner scheme for housing/houses (EU)

  • Exercise sustainable public procurement for public buildings and their energy supply (governments);

  • Development of standards for zero-energy houses (EU, governments)


  • Establish a top runner scheme in the automotive field (EU)

  • Implement congestion charges; develop infrastructure for non car mobility (local and regional governments, national governments)

  • Adapt fuel pricing (particularly for aviation) (EU)


  • High VAT on food products with high environmental impacts (e.g. meat) (EU, national governments)

  • Informative campaigns influencing meat consumption levels (EU, national governments)

  • Making impact of food visible (e.g. via carbon footprint labels; retailers).

Apart from the domain-specific recommendations, some general policy recommendations can be given. Where they seem obvious rules for professional policy making, our findings show that in the SCP they are only partially applied. These include:

  • Ensuring adequate stakeholder involvement, impact on decision-making. This element is usually well organised in most EU member states and at EU level;

  • Development of clear multi-dimensional sustainability targets. There is a clear reluctance to set such goals in an SCP context (e.g. targets with regard to overall resource-efficiency improvements in society)1;

  • Clear agreements on implementation steps to be taken by different agents. Given the widely experienced ‘implementation gap’ in the field of SCP, also this point needs attention.

  • Implementation control, success monitoring and feedback loops. This is partially covered at national and EU level by institutions such as EUROSTAT and the EEA (and similar ones at national level).

Finally, it has to be repeated that SCP is a concept that de facto seeks to make our economic system as a whole more sustainable. Though this is usually neglected, it hence must address some fundamental questions about how the economic system works, and if it provides quality of life for the masses in the most effective way. Dealing with topics such as ‘beyound GDP’, ‘degrowth’, and ‘effectiveness in quality of life provision’ hence must have a place on the SCP agenda, how difficult they may be to deal with.

1 In the economic field, the situation is markedly different. There is agreement on e.g. targets with regard to inflation, state debt, etc., that reflect a ‘healthy economy’.