The European Union committed itself in its founding treaties to an environmental policy in compliance with the criteria of sustainability and the precautionary principle (Art. 3, Paragraph 3 TEU) and a high level of protection in the areas of health, security and consumer protection (Art. 114, Paragraph 2 TFEU). With respect to the market of chemical substances, these guiding principles are anchored in the EU-Chemical regulation (regulation (EC) No 1907/2006, the so-called REACH-regulation). According to paragraph (3) of the preamble, REACH shall ensure "a high level of human health and environmental protection [...], with the goal of achieving sustainable development". A prerequisite is that the amount of chemicals produced and marketed as well as their risks for human health and the environment are known. This knowledge is not only necessary for governments to implement imperative command and control regulations, but also for the consideration of substance-related risks in the decisions of all societal actor. In fact, one of the core functions of the REACH-regulation is to generate such knowledge and make it transparent throughout the market.
Central Question of the Project
Whether a regulatory framework based on producing and disseminating risk information on chemical substances can contribute to the stated normative goals by inducing behavioral change of the relevant market actors is an unanswered empirical question. The project focuses particularly on the potential of demand driven changes in the market as a result of a change in consumer behavior. By studying consumers risk preference and perception of risk (information) the project aims at deriving policy implications regarding consumer protection rights with respect to the disclosure of information about products and chemicals. Furthermore, it is examined to what extent other societal actors can remedy the information asymmetry by making risk information stemming from scientific and regulatory contexts accessible and understandable to consumers.
The central research questions are answered using the methodological framework of the so-called institutional analysis, which is carried out using a stepwise approach. First, the normative goals of the regulations and processes being evaluated are determined. Then, it is examined (2) which actors are relevant to reaching these goals and how each actor would need to behave in order for the goals to be met. The next step studies on an empirical level (3) how the identified actors actually behave and which factors drive their behavior. Finally, based on the two preceding steps, an actor-specific comparison of the desired set-point and the actual behavior is done to clarify (4) how the regulatory and institutional framework can be alternated with minimal interventions in order to generate the desired behavior.
Prof. Dr. Martin Führ, Hochschule Darmstadt