Indicators and main elements of policy


The Dutch government uses indicators to give a succinct and clear picture of progress in implementing environmental policy and the effects thus achieved for the environment. These indicators contain a great deal of compressed information. The RIVM (National Institute of Public Health and Environment) calculates the latest values of the indicators each year.

Dutch environmental policy makes use of both target group indicators and theme indicators. A target group indicator shows the trend in the contribution made by the target group concerned to the relevant themes. A relevant theme for this purpose is one where the target group accounts for at least 10% of the total environmental load. This Summary presents, for most of the target groups, data showing how the indicator developed over the period 1980-1995. No indicators are currently available for the retail trade or for the water supply companies.

There are also theme indicators. A unit has been developed for each theme which allows the contribution of each pollutant to that theme to be expressed in terms of a common denominator. This unit, referred to as the "theme equivalent", allows the contributions to be aggregated within a theme. The policy objectives can be expressed in terms of the same units, so that the progress of policy towards meeting this objective can be made visible. Indicators for the themes groundwater depletion and squandering are still under development. On the international front the Netherlands is striving to promote the development and harmonization of indicators.

Target group indicators


Main elements of the policy:
  • policy is directed towards ensuring the readiness of the target group to assume responsibility for integrating environmental measures into its activities and to make agreements upon this;
  • specific attention is begin given to integrating and coordinating the various environmental targets and rules made by central government, provinces, water boards and municipalities faced by a particular sector, such as glass horticulture; 
  • standards have been set, within the framework of policy for dealing with manure and ammonia, for phosphate and nitrogen losses. Appropriate instruments are being prepared, including a requirement to record P and N balances on the basis of the inputs and outputs of these nutrients to the soil;
  • measures will be taken to reduce the structural dependence on, use of, and emissions of chemical pesticides by the agricultural sector; 
  • other agriculture-related issues which are receiving attention in environmental policy: the emissions of greenhouse gases and acidifying substances, odor, and the effect which fertilizer use has in adding heavy metals and organic micro-pollutants to the soil.

Industry and other sectors

Main elements of the policy:

The central ideas are:

  • environmental problems are best solved in consultation with the industry involved; 
  • target group policy helps to make environmental policy more consistent and increases certainty for individual enterprises; 
  • the government is responsible for formulating environmental objectives;
  • target group is responsible for meeting the targets set.
Broadly, environmental policy for industry is implemented by means of the following steps: 
  • formulate emission reduction objectives;
  • select the sectors of industry;
  • draw up a declaration of intent containing "integrated environmental targets" (IET) for the sector;
  • launch a publicity campaign;
  • draw up an implementation plan or a corporate environmental plan which puts the IET into effect;
  • elaborate and apply the measures.
  • the companies concerned report on their actual environmental performance; 
  • aggregating the reports by sector gives a picture as to whether the IET is being achieved;
  • the manner in which results are to be monitored is set forth in the"covenants";
  • data reports made by companies will as far as possible be harmonized with other environmental reports and integrated into the environmental reporting regulations (where applicable).

Oil refineries

Main elements of the policy: 

  • improving implementation structure by integrating environmental targets and corporate environmental plans; 
  • extension of monitoring;increasing certainty for the sector by:
    • Dutch environmental requirements comparable with those applying internationally, and efforts directed at tightening standards within the EU; 
    • emphasis on an integrated approach to the target group at the EU level; 
    • issues requiring particular attention: odor, polluted aquatic sediments and more knowledge about actual emissions of heavy metals and PAH.
Basis of target group approach: each company is free, within certain boundaries, to decide how it solves its environmental problems and to set priorities in implementing abatement measures.

Energy supply companies

Main elements of the policy:
  • the emphasis is on the use of "covenants", or voluntary agreements, supported where appropriate by regulation; 
  • agreements are being set, for example, by authorities and power supply companies, to reduce emissions of acidifying substances (NOx and SO2) by the year 2000. It is almost certain that the agreed reduction goals will be met;
  • the government has set agreements with the energy distribution sector relating to energy-saving and the stimulation of renewable energy forms. The sectors central environmental action plan (EAP) has been translated in environmental action plans for each energy distributing company. These contain concrete measures like combined heat and power, wind power, stimulating high efficiency boilers and light bulbs, etc. Part of the costs of such measures will be met from the EAP supplement on gas and electricity prices;
  • the Third Policy Document on Energy, issued at the end of 1995, has important consequences for the energy sector. The sector is to be made more market-oriented, and will have an important role in bringing about a sustainable energy supply. National objectives are to achieve a 33% improvement in efficiency and a 10% contribution from renewable energy, both by 2020;
  • important decisions within the sector are coming up, relating to new energy-infrastructure (locations for housing, greenhouse cultivation and industry). The government is stimulating municipalities and energy supply companies to reach a clean and sustainable energy system for these locations. This is supported by a part of the CO2 reduction plan (750 million Dutch guilders).

Retail trade

Main elements of the policy:
  • the sector is approached in close cooperation with the National Association of Retail Traders (HBD). The environmental policy for the sector is discussed and additional agreements are made in the target group consultations, in which not only the relevant government departments and the HBD are represented, but also several other retail trade organizations;
  • the HBD promotes environmental care projects and arranges, in consultation with the retail trade organizations, for an implementation plan to be drawn up in order to draw attention to the results of these projects;
  • a project is being carried out in cooperation with chain stores which is looking at the scope for making the range of products stocked more environmentally friendly;
  • the wholesale industry has a code of conduct for promoting sustainable development; 
  • information programs by the retail sector, aimed on consumers and about environmental care, are supported.


Main elements of the policy: 
  • consumers are appealed to both directly by the authorities and indirectly via intermediates. Much government effort is aimed at encouraging these intermediates to emphasize environmental issues in their dealings with consumers. These organizations include consumer organizations such as the Consumer Association (consumentenbond) and women's organizations, the retail trade and producers; 
  • the general approach is directed towards lowering the barriers to more environmentally-aware behavior, stimulating the supply of more environmentally-friendly products through the provision of reliable and objective information, and encouraging relevant facilities and services;
  • general instruments such as information, financing and other measures are being deployed to achieve the "internalization" and implementation of environmental policy;
  • the consultations with the consumers target group, at present involving general consumer organizations, will be extended to include more specific organizations concerned with, for example, lifestyle, leisure activities and traffic; 
  • the opportunities for more sustainable lifestyles will be explored by closely monitoring and where necessary initiating societal debate on this issue or on related topics; 
  • international contacts will be intensified so that, for example, Dutch ideas and plans can be promoted and international support won for those measures which require an international support base.


Main elements of the policy:
  • reducing emissions at the source; 
  • controlling mobility; 
  • improving car alternatives; 
  • influencing purchasing and driving behavior;
  • offering selective access;
  • reinforcing policy instruments such as communications, cross-governmental cooperation, financing instruments, enforcement and research.


Main elements of the policy: 
  • policy is directed towards both new and other construction (maintenance, renovation, reconstruction and redevelopment), and covers all the phases of civil engineering, residential and non-residential construction;
  • policy is aimed at achieving integrated life-cycle management, energy extensification and the promotion of quality;
  • the targets set forth in the Declaration of Environmental Targets for Construction and Housing 1995 will be implemented as part of target group policy within the Environmental Council for the Construction Industry;
  • policy is also implemented through legislation and regulation: not only environmental and building regulations, but also planning and other regulations; 
  • studies, field experiments, monitoring and nformation activities are also being carried out;
  • building materials:
    • the Building Materials Implementation Plan outlines the policy on building materials and serves to coordinate various central government activities;
    • efforts are being made, by means of a levy, to promote the conservation of primary materials and the use of secondary building materials;
  • construction activities:
    • sustainable building: efforts are being made to get municipalities and the market partners to achieve a high environmental, spatial and housing quality in sustainable local "VINEX" location development. Measures are also being taken to stimulate better energy conservation in new construction, as well as enhanced noise insulation in new housing;
    • demolition, disposal and recycling: after the landfill ban takes effect, certified companies will only be allowed to have non-recyclable construction and demolition waste landfilled. Maximum efforts will be made to separate at the source and recycle waste asphalt; 
  • in accordance to EU Directives, programs will be established for the energy certification of buildings and energy audits in energy-intensive enterprises. A research program has also been launched in which construction firms can be awarded a subsidy for research and development into energy conservation in buildings.

Waste processing companies

Main elements of the policy:
  • A two-pronged approach is being taken to waste processing companies:
    • 1. environmental management systems are being introduced; 
    • 2. agreements are being made about measures (facilities) which contribute to meeting the objectives of the waste disposal theme (prevention and recycling);
  • waste disposal capacity will be planned in rolling programs (Ten-Year Program for Waste, Multi- Year Plan for Disposal of Hazardous Waste); 
  • quantitative reduction and qualitative improvement in incineration residues to facilitate their use in construction materials as described in the Implementation Plan for Incineration Residues; 
  • international implementation of EU regulations (directives on incineration of hazardous waste, dangerous substances, European list of waste materials).

Water supply companies

Main elements of the policy:
  • sustainable public water supply; 
  • sources to be protected and managed by the promotion of groundwater-friendly agriculture, the ecological management of groundwater protection areas, and by tackling polluters ("external environmental care"); 
  • monitoring environmental quality and signalling changes; 
  • reduction of pollution caused by production of drinking water (through, for example, the company's internal quality assurance and environmental management systems and the VEWIN (Netherlands Waterworks Association) Environmental Plan and environmental report); 
  • taking on an intermediary role towards consumers and industry, where the actual water savings must be made; 
  • the establishment of a framework and the setting of constraints by government which give target groups the chance to work out the implementation details themselves;
  • establishment of a support base amongst the various stakeholders for the policy formulated and the allocation of roles in implementation; - evaluation jointly with the sector of the actual progress being made in implementing policy.

Theme indicators

Climate change

Main elements of the policy:

Policy on climate change at the global level is directed towards reducing the risks. The Netherlands is a party to the Climate Treaty and favors making the obligations created by the Treaty more stringent. A long-term strategy based on the latest scientific information and the results of "the Berlin Climate Conference" is presented in the Follow-up Policy Document on Climate Change (June 1996). The Netherlands will continue to make efforts to secure a European energy/CO2 tax. It will also continue to strive for the wider adoption and coordination of policies on energy conservation and renewable energy internationally.

Policy aimed at curbing national and international use and production of ozone-depleting substances, and the Dutch commitment to these objectives, will be continued.


Main elements of the policy:

The approach is designed to keep up implementation momentum while retaining societal acceptance, and involves:

  • communication about/presentation of the problem and the need to continue tackling it;
  • consultations with the relevant actors about specific problems;
  • encouraging other countries to take measures and introduce regulations; 
  • applying state-of-the-art technology; but also being receptive to alternatives.


Main elements of the policy:
  • restore equilibrium between the addition and removal of phosphorus and nitrogen to/from the environment; 
  • reduce discharges of eutrophying substances from households, industry and agriculture into surface waters; 
  • pay attention to specific areas.

Toxic and hazardous substances

Main elements of the policy: 
  • preventive approach through assessment before new substances, new pesticides and genetically modified organisms are introduced into the economy and the environment; 
  • preventive approach through measures to reduce emissions at source; 
  • measures at source driven by environmental quality, based on limiting risk levels and use of limit and target values.

Waste disposal

Main elements of the policy: 
  • the main target groups of the waste disposal theme are consumers, industry, the construction sector, waste disposal companies and waste water treatment plants;
  • policy on waste is guided by the following principles: 
    • the responsibility of the producer for his product in the waste stage;
    • the polluter pays principle;
    • prevention at source;
    • closure of material cycles;
  • it is important to have sufficient waste processing and disposal capacity; 
  • prevention and recycling activities in the plan period will be directed towards implementing existing plans and, if appropriate, introducing the necessary legislation and regulations; 
  • measures will be elaborated which create the right conditions:
    • bans on landfill; 
    • rises in landfill charges; 
    • promotion of the marketing of waste for useful applications; 
    • technology development;
  • amongst the central planks of policy are the development of the concept of producer responsibility for products in the waste phase, and the structural incorporation of waste prevention/minimization into, particularly, company activities; 
  • at the international level policy will concentrate on promoting the various elements of the Dutch approach.


Main elements of the policy:

The various elements of the disturbance theme (noise, odor, external safety and local air pollution) can have an impact on health and on the amenity of the environment living). 

The local environmental quality can be improved by:

  • improving the implementation of policy for the different components of the disturbance theme through, for example, decentralization, rationalization of the regulations and a better programming of implementation;
  • taking a more integrated approach to problems of disturbance by:
    • identifying clearly the nature and magnitude of the problem;
    • improving the monitoring of actual developments in relation to objectives; 
    • matching instruments better to the opportunities for an integrated approach to the environment at the regional and local level.

Groundwater depletion

Main elements of the policy:
  • reduction of the total area suffering from a falling water-table through joint action by central government, provinces and municipalities, those managing the land and the agriculture, water suppliers, industry and consumer target groups; 
  • groundwater depletion is being tackled by area oriented measures managed and coordinated by the provinces; 
  • administrative decision-making to resolve problems encountered in policy on groundwater depletion, and agreements between target groups and the relevant authorities about how policy objectives for 2000 are to be met; 
  • rural development projects will contribute to combating groundwater depletion;
  • water boards play an active role in combating groundwater depletion, for example by establishing and implementing rehabilitation projects.


Main elements of the policy:

The approach to this theme is characterized by the efficient use of natural resources in consumption and production processes and the safeguarding of natural resources. 

The theme of squandering is tackled from two different directions: resource stock management for the long term and measures at the point of use for the short term. The object of the former is to operationalize the concept of the sustainable management of the stock of natural resources, based on applying risk assessment to the availability of key resources, and an evaluation by society of the acceptability of these risks, The short-term approach aims at combating unnecessary use of natural resources for production and consumption. For both cases, policy will interface as far as possible with existing policy.

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Page last updated: 05/19/98

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