This case study investigates bargaining and innovation processes around efforts to
reduce and to substitute production and use of EDTA between 1985 and 1999. Environmental
policy succeeded in stimulating efforts to significantly reduce EDTA release,
in particular by aspiring to a voluntary declaration and subsequent voluntary
agreements. Supported by continuous debate in EDTA meetings and by the eigendynamic
of commitments made by participating actors, these efforts led to substantial
results, though not as much as had been envisaged. The environmental innovations
arising typically were technical process innovations or a combination of product and
process innovation rearranging and optimising chemical processes in various industries
using EDTA. Concerning producers and suppliers of chelating agents, their EDTArelated
innovative efforts were embedded in general research programs elucidating the
pronounced strategic capabilities of large corporations in managing innovations.
Without significant public funding policy making and interpolicy coordination of
environmental policy and ecology-oriented technology policy in most cases had at best
an indirect impact on these innovation processes reinforcing them to some degree by
promoting regulatory framework conditions and monitoring programs. Consequently,
various relatively separated knowledge, business and regulatory networks originated
from these EDTA-related innovative efforts. Comparing different R&D projects leading
to technically viable environmental innovations of reducing, substituting, or degrading
EDTA (use), the central importance of corporate capacities and market opportunities for
their successful diffusion becomes obvious. Thus, serious obstacles to the innovation
processes referred more to their social than to their technical and time dimension.
Altogether, environmental policy successfully organised multiple efforts to reduce EDTA
release on the basis of voluntary agreements in Germany. These voluntary agreements
enhanced, but did hardly induce corresponding environmental innovations, mainly in
industry, and also contributed to learning processes among the actors, participating in
EDTA discourse and politics, in the direction of a more holistic (policy) perspective
towards ecological sustainability.
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