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A ( voluntary ) self-commitment is a unilateral declaration by states, organizations, persons or companies with which they undertake to comply with certain rules or to carry out demands within a (certain) period. This commitment is not legally binding.

A traditional form of voluntary commitment is the code of conduct .

Legal assessment

Voluntary self-commitments do not lead to any legal rights for those affected. Nevertheless, there are some courts of first instance that derive legal claims from such voluntary commitments.

Motives for voluntary commitment

Avoiding legal regulations

In many cases, “voluntary” self-commitments come about under the threat that the legislature will otherwise enforce its will by law (and typically more rigidly ).


Influencing public opinion

Often serve commitments and the public relations ( PR ). The self-commitment - initially even without active measures - transports the image of the organization as a responsible partner to the public. This aspect can also be used lobbyistically as a delaying tactic or, in the worst case, for deliberate deception.

Effectiveness of voluntary commitments

The effectiveness of voluntary commitments is controversial. The scientific evaluation of voluntary self-commitments seems to have hardly been developed so far.

On the one hand, there are clearly successful voluntary commitments (e.g. the international agreement on the protection of the ozone layer (see CFC )).

However, the results of most of the commitments are controversial. While z. B. banks refer to the more than 800,000 Jedermann accounts as a success of the voluntary commitment, criticize consumer protection associations that there are still people who are denied a current account.

Cooperative measures in environmental policy tend to produce poor results if no sanction options are agreed in the event that the obligation is proven to be ineffective.

For example, B. Studies from 38 countries that have been carried out in the field of renewable energies indicate that voluntary commitments do not achieve the desired results and that such regulations are mainly introduced by governments that only ostensibly want to implement environmental protection measures. For this reason, such regulations should only be introduced temporarily on the way to more effective measures.

Commitment and censorship

In the case of externally (e.g. state) “prescribed” self-commitment, self-control can degenerate into self-censorship . Under the pretext of protecting and safeguarding certain civil rights, national integrity, etc., institutions undertake to avoid the disclosure and publication of certain information that is not appropriate for the prescriber.

Individual evidence

  1. u. a. LG Bremen Az. 2 O 408/05 (judgment of June 16, 2005); LG Berlin Az. 21 S 1/03.
  2. Mariana Aguirre, Gbenga Ibikunle, Determinants of renewable energy growth: A global sample analysis . Energy Policy 69 (2014) 374–384, p. 382 doi : 10.1016 / j.enpol.2014.02.036 .

See also