Appointment of a sustainability expert

As of September 1, 2022, Elise Provost was appointed first formal head of the French Competition Authority’s (the “FCA”) sustainable development network.  Since this network is also responsible for flagging sustainability-related cases to the FCA’s General Rapporteur (i.e., the head of the FCA’s investigation unit), Elise Provost was also appointed adviser to the General Rapporteur as of September 1, 2022.

Prior to this dual appointment, Elise Provost had joined the FCA in 2014 where she worked as a senior case handler.  Elise Provost also previously wrote a PhD in law that mainly focuses on issues related to competition law, sector-specific regulation and sustainability.[1]  Elise Provost served as the sustainable development network’s informal leader as of 2019.

This network was indeed informally set up in 2019 to increase the FCA’s expertise on sustainability matters and better address complaints and queries in this area.  This network currently comprises approximately 20 case handlers from the FCA’s antitrust, merger and economics units and is tasked with progressing the FCA’s oversight of sustainability issues.

Increased focus on sustainability factors in competitive assessments

Elise Provost’s appointment is in line with the FCA’s goal to make sustainability one of its top priorities, alongside European and international stakeholders.[2]  The FCA in particular strives to prevent and/or punish anticompetitive practices that block or delay the entry or expansion of more sustainable products. The FCA also provides guidance to companies that wish to benefit from it.

Already in 2017, the FCA had fined three leading linoleum floor companies €302 million for fixing prices, sharing commercially confidential information and signing a non-compete agreement not to advertise a product’s environmental performance. [3]  In its decision, the FCA criticized the companies for reducing incentives to innovate and create more sustainable products.  In its decision, the FCA considered that anticompetitive practices with a negative impact in terms of sustainable development are considered particularly serious.  

In the revised notice on the calculation of fines published on July 30, 2021, the FCA included sustainability in the non-exhaustive list of factors that it may take into account in assessing the gravity of anticompetitive practices.[4]

In September 2021, the FCA imposed a fine of €500,000 on companies active in the road freight transport sector. [5]  The FCA found that by hindering the digital transition in this sector, the road freight transport companies may have limited the environmental gains associated with digital platforms.

In both its 2021 annual report and 2022-2023 roadmap, the FCA recalled that the impact on sustainable development and environment is now part of its assessment of alleged anticompetitive practices (it refers to the 2017 linoleum floor decision and to the 2021 road freight transport sector decision) and mergers (e.g., the FCA has defined new “green” markets and has acknowledged the potential offsetting gains of an environmental nature).[6]

Elise Provost’s appointment also comes after the European Commission released a chapter dedicated to sustainability in its new draft horizontal guidelines, which should also lead to increased scrutiny of considerations relating to sustainability in upcoming cases.

In line with the above, speaking at a round-table discussion relating to “green considerations” in competition law on September 22, 2022,[7] Elise Provost said that sustainable development could soon be considered as an important competitive parameter in some sectors, alongside more traditional competitive factors (such as cost-based, quality or innovation competitive advantages).


[1] Elise Provost, Le coût en droit européen de la concurrence, Essai sur la réception d’une notion économique, Université de Liège et Université Panthéon-Assas, 2014.

[2] See for instance the FCA’s Annual Report for 2020, Sustainable development and competition, A major and strategic concern, available at: https://media.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/adlc-bilan-activite-2020/en/a-major-and-strategic-concern/. See also, for 2021, the FCA’s annual report available at: https://www.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/sites/default/files/2022-07/ADLC_RA_2021_SD-2.pdf, pages 24-27.

[3] See FCA Decision No. 17-D-20 of October 18, 2017 regarding practices implemented in the linoleum floor sector.

[4] See FCA press release of July 30, 2021, The Autorité de la concurrence revises its procedural notice on fines, availableat : https://www.autoritedelaconcurrence.fr/en/communiques-de-presse/autorite-de-la-concurrence-revises-its-procedural-notice-fines.

[5] See FCA Decision No. 21-D-21 of September 9, 2021 regarding practices implemented in the road freight transport sector.

[6]See for instance, FCA Decision No. 21-DCC-79 of May 12, 2021 regarding the acquisition of sole control of Société du Pipeline Méditerranée-Rhône by Transport Stockage Énergies, para. 189.

[7] Competition is the new green, Competition round-table discussion, Paris, September 22, 2022.