6. Private sector guidance

//6. Private sector guidance

6. Private sector guidance

Recommendation: Guide the private sector to move further towards more sustainable business models that support the triple-win

The transition to greater sustainability cannot happen without the private sector – they produce the goods and services upon which we depend and are drivers of innovation. But we cannot continue with “business as usual”. Government regulations and incentives to ensure businesses produce more sustainably and contribute to redistributing wealth are crucial. It is also important to recognise that the private sector is very diverse. Whilst some private sector actors drive sustainable, healthy, equitable change, others lag behind or undermine progress. Policymakers must facilitate the efforts of front-runners to pave the path the path towards more ‘triple-wins’, whilst holding those that harm the environment and public health accountable. Reactions to the INHERIT future scenarios reflect awareness of the role companies play in shaping lifestyles and behaviours, as well as the need for governments and citizens to regulate this influence.[1]

Voices from INHERIT

[…] apart from liking renewable energies, I like that the state, businesses and citizens reach an agreement.

Spain, 19, Middle Income

I like that all the administrations, companies and communities work together to achieve green spaces so that not all the burden is carried out by one.

Spain, 30, High Income

I particularly like that companies extend different offers to citizens according to the category of people, from poor to rich. I also like that technology really helps, and we have control over the energy we spend.

Macedonia, 36, High Income

I like that companies offer solutions [in relation to renewable energy sources] in cooperation with citizens. My current life totally differs from this; I do not use any renewable source of energy and I would like to live differently, like in the scenario.

Macedonia, 36, Low Income

What can be done? Insights from INHERIT

Across policy levels   EU level

It is becoming increasingly apparent that current economic models, based on the idea of ‘take, make, consume, dispose’, and which emphasise profitability and shareholder (as opposed to broader societal) value, are enriching some but ultimately damaging the global commons. Policymakers have a role to play in:

  • Cultivating new ways of thinking about the economy, moving towards models that integrate and align economic, environmental and social priorities, respect environmental boundaries and truly promote the physical and mental health and well-being of all.
  • Helping to mainstream these new models.
  • Considering shorter working weeks to promote ‘work-life’ balance and as a way to distribute societal resources.[2]
  • Invest in, finance and subsidise industries, goods and services that protect and restore the environment and promote health and wellbeing, whilst taxing or sanctioning negative externalities. For example:
    • Foster a level playing field between companies, making sure that the externalities are included in the ultimate pricing and that the polluter pays.
    • Subsidise clean technologies, provide tax incentives for companies producing sustainable products/services that have yet to prove economically sustainable.
  • Implement regulations that promote sustainability. For example.:
    • Amend anti-trust regulations to enable private companies to collaborate on developing sustainable solutions, for instance allowing for greater exchange on plastics.
    • Ensure public services (schools, hospital, workplace restaurants) include sustainability, health and social standards in their procurement policies.
    • Ban the practice of obsolescence and introduce the ‘right to repair’.
  • Provide training and skills in emerging sectors improving health and the environment.
  • Develop digital and literacy skills to stimulate equitable green jobs.
  • Assist sustainable SMEs, social enterprises and co-operatives to remain financially viable and further promote sustainable practices (for instance by developing a European short food supply chain certification system to help small-scale rural producers earn a fair living).

For example by:

  • Mainstreaming common accounting systems that take into account environmental footprint and social costs.
  • Adopting more integrated guidelines and standards on sustainability issues, to facilitate consumer understanding and help companies operate across borders (for instance: standardised pan-EU labelling on food, highlighting both health and environmental sustainability aspects).
  • Apply the changing EU agendas (such as the Multi Annual Financial Framework 2021-27 and the European Semester) to ensure economic guidelines and guidance that drive ‘triple-wins’ and sustainability priorities. Ensure for example that the prospective European Green Deal and Just Transition Fund support a fair and circular green economy, green finance, and lead to equitable jobs, and that programmes such as Invest EU, the EU Structural and Investment Funds, Horizon Europe and the Common Agricultural Policy are also aligned with new more sustainable economic models.
  • Explore joining existing and emerging sectoral initiatives (e.g. nutritional and sustainability labelling in the food system environment) to support a socially just transition to a greener and healthier EU economy.
  • Strengthen measures related to the single market and trade agreements to encourage and incentivise more sustainable ‘triple-win’ practices.


INHERIT triple-win case studies

More information on the INHERIT case studies can be found in the Annex: triple-win case studies


Online platform in Portugal that links rural producers directly with consumers, cutting out intermediaries and contributing to a shorter food-supply chain. Would benefit from a short-food supply chain certification.

Tool: INHERIT Promising practice database


IT tool (website and apps) that scores products on the basis of health, environment, human rights and animal welfare considerations. It covers products available in a number of affiliated supermarket chains in the Netherlands.

Additional Reading from INHERIT

Business Roundtable (EU)

EU-level INHERIT Policy Roundtable report (2019) Sustainable Business in 2019: An Intersectoral Dialogue. EuroHealthNet and Philips: Brussels.

2020-01-17T12:09:59+01:00November 26, 2019|Keys themes|Comments Off on 6. Private sector guidance