Soft regulation and responsible nanotechnological development in the European Union: Regulating occupational health and safety in the Netherlands


  • Bärbel Dorbeck-Jung University of Twente


Worldwide, soft regulation like codes of conduct and benchmarks have been introduced to cope with the uncertain risks and benefits of nanotechnologies. However, it seems that these regulations are facing effectiveness problems. For instance, the European Commission’s 2008 Nano Code of Conduct has not yet been implemented in the member states. Using the analytical framework of responsive regulation this article explores effectiveness problems of soft regulation that has been established to reduce exposure to nanomaterials at the workplace. The article builds on ongoing research on the effects of voluntary regulation that applies to occupational activities with nanomaterials in the Netherlands. The evaluation of this rich governance arrangement offers indications of potential effectiveness problems. A tentative lesson of the research is that soft regulation can contribute to responsible nanotechnological development if it is specific enough to meet the needs of the regulated parties, if rule compliance is supported by financial and professional resources, and if it is embedded in a culture of social responsible partners, knowledgeable vigilance and adaptation.


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