The agro-food industry, public health, and environmental protection: investigating the Porter hypothesis in food regulation

  • Eric Giraud-Héraud
  • Jean-Pierre Ponssard
  • Bernard Sinclair Desgagné
  • Louis-Georges Soler
Research Article


Sustainable food concerns have pushed public authorities to act by means of regulations, standards and other devices, and businesses to innovate in their products and production processes. We argue that the Porter hypothesis—which asserts that properly designed and implemented environmental regulation might be good for society as well as the targeted firms—might well be verified in this context. After reviewing and illustrating the working principles and main criticisms of this hypothesis, we provide a more in-depth discussion of nutritional issues. While the literature generally points to organizational imperfections and market failures to validate the Porter hypothesis, we submit and model another rationale for the agro-food industry, a rationale that is based on consumer behavior.


Sustainable food Regulation Innovation Consumer behavior Porter hypothesis 

JEL classification

L13 L51 Q55 Q58 



The initial idea of this paper was widely discussed with Jean-Pierre HUIBAN. This research is part of research program conducted in the following projects: OCAD, funded by the French ANR (ANR 11 ALID 002 03); and ERA-Net SUSFOOD SUSDIET (grant agreement no. 291766), with the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation).

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the INRA conference in the honor of Jean-Pierre Huiban that took place on January 27th 2015 in Paris. We wish to thank the participants at this conference, as well as three anonymous referees and the editor, Xavier Irz, for valuable comments and suggestions.


  1. Académie des technologies (2012) Alimentation, innovation et consommateurs, Commission des biotechnologies, Editions Le Manuscrit, Paris, France, 92 pGoogle Scholar
  2. Aghion P, Dewatripont M, Rey P (1997) Corporate governance, competition policy and industrial policy. Eur Econ Rev 41(3–5):797–805CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allais M (1953) Le comportement de l’homme rationnel devant le risque; critiques des postulats et axiomes de l’école Américaine. Econometrica 21(4):503–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ambec S, Barla P (2007) Survol des fondements théoriques de l’hypothèse de Porter. L’Actualité Economique 83(3):399–413Google Scholar
  5. Ambec S, Cohen M, Elgie S, Lanoie P (2013) The Porter hypothesis at 20: can environmental regulation enhance innovation and competitiveness? Rev Environ Econ Policy 7(1):2–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. André F, González P, Porteiro N (2009) Strategic quality competition and the Porter hypothesis. J Environ Econ Manag 57(2):182–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ariely D (2008) Predictably irrational: the hidden forces that shape our decisions. Harper Collins, New York, 384 pGoogle Scholar
  8. Asfaw S, Mithöfer D, Waibel H (2010) Agrifood supply chain, private-sector standards, and farmers’ health: evidence from Kenya. Agric Econ 41(3–4):251–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blanchard P, Huiban J-P, Musolesi A, Sevestre P (2013) Where there is a will, there is a way? Assessing the impact of obstacles to innovation. Ind Corp Chang 22(3):679–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bolton P, Dewatripont M (1994) The firm as a communication network. Q J Econ 109(4):809–839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bougherara D, Combris P (2009) Eco-labelled food products: what are consumers paying for? Eur Rev Agric Econ 36(3):321–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brambila-Macias J, Shankar B, Capacci S, Mazzocchi M, Perez-Cueto F, Verbeke W, Traill B (2011) Policy interventions to promote healthy eating: a review of what works, what does not, and what is promising. Food Nutr Bull 32(4):365–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ceci-Renaud N. and Thao Khamsing W (2012) Les consommateurs face à l’affichage environnemental, Collection «Études et documents» du Service de l’Économie, de l’Évaluation et de l’Intégration du Développement Durable (SEEIDD) du Commissariat Général au Développement Durable (CGDD), Paris, France, n°74, 38 pGoogle Scholar
  14. Constantatos C, Herrmann M (2011) Market inertia and the introduction of green products: can strategic effects justify the Porter hypothesis? Environ Resour Econ 50(2):267–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cyert R, March J (1992) A behavioral theory of the firm, 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, Maiden, U.S.A., 268 pGoogle Scholar
  16. d’Aspremont L-A, Jacquemin A (1988) Cooperative and noncooperative R&D in duopoly with spillovers. Am Econ Rev 78(5):1133–1137Google Scholar
  17. Gabel HL and Sinclair-Desgagné B (1998) The firm, its routines, and the environment, in: The International Yearbook of Environmental and Resource Economics 1998/1999: A Survey of Current Issues, H. Folmer and T. Tietenberg (eds), Edward Elgar, 89–118.Google Scholar
  18. Giraud-Héraud E, Hammoudi A, Hoffmann R, Soler L-G (2012) Joint private safety standards and vertical relationships in food retailing. J Econ Manag Strat 21(1):179–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Greaker M (2006) Spillovers in the development of new pollution abatement technology: a new look at the Porter-hypothesis. J Environ Econ Manag 52(1):411–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hanemann M (2009) The role of emissions trading in domestic climate change policy. Energy J 30(2):79–114Google Scholar
  21. He FJ, MacGregor G (2009) A comprehensive review on salt and health and current experience of worldwide salt reduction programmes. J Hum Hypertens 23(6):363–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Henson S, Masakure O, Cranfield J (2011) Do fresh produce exporters in Sub-Saharan Africa benefit from GlobalGap certification? World Dev 39(3):375–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hercberg S, Chat-Yung S, Chaulia M (2008) The French national and health program: 2001-2006-2010. Int J Public Health 53(2):68–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hotelling H (1929) Stability in competition. Econ J 39:41–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huiban J.P. and Musolesi A. (2012) Augmenting the production function with knowledge capital to test the Porter hypothesis: the case of French food industries, Working Paper ALISS 2012–08,, 25 p.
  26. Jaffe AB, Palmer K (1997) Environmental regulation and innovation: a panel data study. Rev Econ Stat 79(4):610–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jourdan C, Hobbis S (2013) Tensions internationales autour d’un concombre tueur : confiance et glocalisation alimentaire. Anthropol Soc 37(2):173–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lanoie P, Laurent-Lucchetti J, Johnstone N, Ambec S (2011) Environmental policy, innovation and performance: new insights on the Porter hypothesis. J Econ Manag Strateg 20(3):803–842CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maertens M, Swinnen JFM (2009) Trade, standards and poverty: evidence from Senegal. World Dev 37(1):161–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. MEDDE (2013) Ministère de l’Ecologie et du Développement Durable et de l’Energie, Le bilan au Parlement de l’expérimentation nationale de l’affichage environnemental, septembre 2013, Scholar
  31. Minten B, Randrianarison L, Swinnen JFM (2009) Global retail chains and poor farmers: evidence from Madagascar. World Dev 37(11):1728–1741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mohr RD (2002) Technical change, external economies, and the Porter hypothesis. J Environ Econ Manag 43(1):158–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Moorman C, Ferraro R, Huber J (2012) Unintended nutrition consequences: firm responses to the nutrition labeling and education act. Mark Sci 31(5):717–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. OQALI (2012) (Observatoire de la qualité de l’alimentation) Évaluation de l’impact potentiel des chartes d’engagements volontaires de progrès nutritionnel sur les apports en nutriments de la population française, Rapport « études transversales”,, 147 p
  35. OQALI (2013) (Observatoire de la qualité de l’alimentation) Etude des relations entre composition nutritionnelle, étiquetage et prix, Rapport « études transversales”,, 52 p
  36. Ouma S (2010) Global standards, local realities: private agrifood governance and the restructuring of the Kenyan horticulture industry. Econ Geogr 86(2):197–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Palmer K, Oates W, Portney P (1995) Tightening environmental standards: the benefit-cost or the no-cost paradigm. J Econ Perspect 9(4):119–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Popp D (2006) International innovation and diffusion of air pollution control technologies: the effects of NOx and SO2 regulation in the US, Japan, and Germany. J Environ Econ Manag 51(1):46–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Porter M (1991) America’s green strategy, Scientific American 264(4)Google Scholar
  40. Porter M, van der Linde C (1995) Towards a new conception of environment-competitiveness relationship. J Econ Perspect 9(4):97–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Radner R (1992) Hierarchy: the economics of managing. J Econ Lit 30(3):1382–1415Google Scholar
  42. Réquillart V, Soler LG (2014) Is the reduction of chronic diseases related to food consumption in the hands of the food industry? Eur Rev Agric Econ 41(3):375–403. doi: 10.1093/erae/jbu010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sah R, Stiglitz J (1986) The architecture of economic systems: hierarchies and polyarchies. Am Econ Rev 76(4):716–727Google Scholar
  44. Salop S (1979) Monopolistic competition with outside goods. Bell J Econ 10(1):141–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Saulais L, Ruffieux B (2012) A field experiment to design healthier foods: consumer valuation of butter production processes. Food Qual Prefer 26(2):178–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sebillotte C (2013) Efficiency of public-private co-regulation in the food sector: the French voluntary agreements for nutritional improvements, Aliss Working Paper 2013–03,, 34 p
  47. Simpson RD, Bradford RL (1996) Taxing variable cost: environmental regulation as industrial policy. J Environ Econ Manag 30(3):282–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Subervie J, Vagneron I (2013) A drop of water in the Indian Ocean? The impact of GlobalGap certification on lychee farmers in Madagascar. World Dev 50:57–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Traill B (2012) Economic perspectives on nutrition policy evaluation. J Agric Economics 63(3):505–527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Traill B, Bech-Larsen T, Gennaro L, Koziol-Kozakowska A, Kuhn S, Wills J (2012) Reformulation for healthier food: a qualitative assessment of alternative approaches, 2012 AAEA/EAAE Food Environment Symposium, May 30–31. Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, Boston, U.S.A., 33 pGoogle Scholar
  51. Traill WB, Mazzocchi M, Niedźwiedzka B, Shankar B, Wills J (2013) The EATWELL project: recommendations for healthy eating policy interventions across Europe. Nutr Bull 38(3):352–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Vadiveloo M, Morwitz V, Chandon P (2013) The interplay of health claims and taste importance on food consumption and self-reported satiety. Appetite 71:349–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vergez A. (2012) Vers un affichage environnemental sur les produits alimentaires, n°64, janvier 2012, Commissariat Général au développement durable, URL :, 26 pGoogle Scholar
  54. Wansink B, van Ittersum K, Painter J (2004) How diet and health labels influence taste and satiation. Journal of food science 69(9):340–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Giraud-Héraud
    • 1
  • Jean-Pierre Ponssard
    • 2
  • Bernard Sinclair Desgagné
    • 3
  • Louis-Georges Soler
    • 1
  1. 1.INRA, UR1303 ALISS, F-94205 IVRY-SUR-SEINE, France et GREThA, UMR5113 CNRSUniversité de BordeauxPessacFrance
  2. 2.Ecole PolytechniquePalaiseauFrance
  3. 3.HECMontréalCanada

Personalised recommendations