This paper addresses the misconception that agreements concerning the price to be paid to farmers, intended to ensure that their workers receive a living income, inevitably amount to object infringements. Such agreements will still need to be assessed for their effects, of course, and will need to be designed with appropriate care and attention. But recent EU case law reconfirms that agreements should not be mechanistically consigned to the “object” box, and guidance from antitrust agencies needs to actively embrace this message, so as to lend confidence to industry to engage constructively on living wage initiatives. Fear of falling straight into the object box is the elephant in the room, casting its shadow on the developing antitrust/sustainability debate. The elephant needs to be firmly shown the door.

By Alec Burnside, Marjolein De Backer & Delphine Strohl1



The International Labor Organization’s constitution declares that “universal and lasting peace … requires … the provision of an adequate living wage.”2 This recognition goes back as far as 1919, more than a century, yet it remains an unfulfilled aspiration for many workers in the developing world, for example on cocoa, banana, coffee or flower plantations.3 Those buying from the plantations often express willingness to pay more for their inputs, the plain purpose being to enable the plantation owner to pay a living wage to workers – indeed, to ensure that the owner hir


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