Sustainability in the Netherlands: What you need to know


published on 15 September 2022 | reading time approx. 3 minutes

by Martin Hoskens & Robin de Beus, Wesselman Accountants | Adviseurs

With the announcement of the CSRD obligation for large companies, the list of Euro­pean applicable laws and regulations is further extended. Also in the Netherlands, there are various directives and laws that contribute to achieving the climate objec­tives of 2030 and 2050. In popular parlance, this all falls under the heading of Cor­porate Social Responsibility, abbreviated to CSR. This means that a company under­takes business with a good balance between society, the environment and profitability. Important terms that often go hand in hand with CSR are sustainability, circularity, good working conditions and social return. Corporate social responsibility is seen as a continuous process in search of improvement.

In the coming years, the following three laws in the context of CSR could have a major impact on business:

1. Energy saving obligation

This obligation was introduced in 2019 by the Activities Decree Environmental Management and applies to all large-scale users within the Netherlands. Companies that are designated as large-scale users must make energy-saving investments if the payback period is 5 years or less. This is a radical measure for many com­pa­nies. It is often a process that involves a great deal of time and expense. For both the accountant and the adviser, this can be an element that raises questions now and in the future.

A company is labelled a heavy user if it consumes more than 50,000 kWh of energy or 25,000 cubic metres of natural gas per year. There are three options when implementing the energy saving obligation:

  • All measures with a payback period of 5 years or less are taken;
  • All applicable sanctions on the Approved Measures Lists (EML in short) for energy saving are taken;
  • Part of the applicable EML measures are taken.

The EML measures are described in the Approved Measures List for Energy Conservation, drawn up by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Environment and can be found online under this heading. These measures are classified according to 19 different sectors. If only part of the measures are taken, the company does not yet comply with the obligation. For each measure not taken, an equivalent or better alternative must be taken instead.

2. CO2 reporting

Companies with more than 100 full-time employees are required to report their CO2 emissions by 2023. This includes both business and commuting traffic, broken down by type of fuel. A maximum permissible amount is determined per sector. If the emissions are above this limit, steps must be taken to reduce them. If a company is still above the standard by 2025, an individual and stricter standard will be drawn up.

3. Energy label C for office buildings

As of 2023, office buildings larger than 100 m2 must have at least energy label C. This means that no more than 225 kWh per square meter per year of fossil energy may be used. If this requirement is not met, substantial fines may be imposed or the building may no longer be used as an office. The monitoring of compliance with this rule will be carried out by municipal authorities.


The implementation of sustainable and energy-saving investments is often accompanied by high costs. In many cases, this is a decisive factor in ultimately deciding not to carry out the sustainability investments or to do so at a later date. To prevent this, various tax incentives, including subsidies, have been introduced in recent years. This way, entrepreneurs who want to contribute to the climate goals are partly relieved of the high costs. Nowadays, it is possible to apply for a subsidy for almost every type of investment. For example, in many cases it is possible to get a refund of the initial advisory costs, the purchase of solar panels or heat pumps can be deducted from the profit in part or in full, and it is possible to get large-scale projects that contribute to the climate goals subsidized to a large extent. The Rijksdienst Voor Ondernemend Nederland, abbreviated to RVO, has published an online guide in which all current and future active subsidies and deductions are listed and explained. In addition to the subsidies, various tax deduction schemes have also been set up: the innovation box is an example of this. This is an incentive to be innovative. This can be rewarded with lower tax rates. The MIA and VAMIL are also examples of deduction and depreciation schemes with which an entrepreneur, who is actively engaged in sustainability, can achieve both a liquidity and interest advantage.

Green Deals

In addition to the European Green Deals, there is a similar initiative in the Netherlands. A Green Deal at the Dutch level can be seen as an agreement between the government and other parties, including civil society organizations and companies. When entering into this agreement, the government offers support for sustain­able plans. It can act as a mediator in negotiations, adapt legislation and regulations or help in exploring new markets.


The SRA, a cooperation of more than 375 accountancy firms in the Netherlands, has drawn up a timeline for the SME entrepreneur. This timeline shows the future plans and obligations in the area of the environment and climate. Most of these plans result from the European climate agreement. The other part consists mainly of Dutch environmental regulations. The timeline also shows the plans for the nine business sectors that will have to undergo the greatest changes.

The timeline can be requested from Wesselman Accountants | Adviseurs.

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