Policy Initiatives/Legislation

The policy framework influences SME innovation activities, particularly innovations for sustainable production. In order to support sustainable development and innovativeness in SMEs, policy makers on international, European, national and regional level have launched dedicated policy initiatives and legislation to support innovations for sustainable production in SMEs. This section provides a short overview on relevant initiatives and legislation.

Global (International)

International intergovernmental agreements have been the basis for policy initiatives addressing global environmental challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity or depletion of the ozone layer, all within the general concept of sustainable development. Specific policy measures and binding legislation then have been introduced on national level to support the agreed goals.

Eco-innovation has been recognized internationally, e.g. by OECD, as a crucial concept to combine innovation and competitiveness with environmental soundness and sustainable development. Realizing a “Green Economy” in the context of sustainable development is also one of the focus areas of the up-coming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (‘Rio+20’ Earth Summit).


The European Commission has introduced a number of policies to support SME development and sustainable innovations. The Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP) was adopted by the Commission in 2004 to cover a wide range of activities promoting eco-innovation and use of environmental technologies. Its objective is to improve European competitiveness in this area, and enable the EU to become the recognized world leader. The "Small Business Act" for Europe, adopted in June 2008, recognizes the central role of SMEs in the EU economy and for the first time puts into place a comprehensive SME policy framework for the European Union. In 2008 the European Commission also presented the Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy (SCP/SIP) Action Plan. It includes a series of proposals on sustainable consumption and production that should contribute to improving the environmental performance of products and increase the demand for more sustainable goods and production technologies.

Dedicated policy initiatives are focused on the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, adopted in 2009, aims at creating more intensive cooperation between the BSR countries and shaping the region into a regional cooperation model for the whole EU. One of its key challenges is to enable sustainable development in the BSR. A concrete action plan to support sustainable development in the BSR has been developed by Baltic 21, an expert group of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS).