China has a fast growing economy in the past three decades that not only contributes to a rise in welfare but also to major energy, resource and environmental problems. Traditional command-and-control approaches are focusing on laggards instead of the forerunners and on sanctions of polluters that are not yet complying with standards. These policy approaches are ineffective to mobilize the potential capacities of cleaner production. This study is conducted in three phases of feasibility studies, demonstrations and up-scaling of adoption of voluntary approaches in China for achieving ambitious energy and environmental targets. The results show that voluntary approach is a proven collective impact approach for China achieving ambitious energy targets. As compared to the energy and environmental targets set by authorities, more than 10%–20% higher targets of energy efficiency and environmental performance can be achieved by adoption of voluntary approaches. The study has concluded six successful factors that are crucial for China adopting collective impact approach of Voluntary Agreement in the field of sustainable production. Those six factors are: (1) a common agenda with shared vision for improvement, (2) co-create with trust, (3) continuous communication based on trust and common motivation, (4) backbone support and facilitation, (5) incentives and sanctions and (6) monitoring, data verification and evaluation. This study provides a good example for China developing and implementing more flexible, public–private-partnership oriented, cost-effective and collective impact policies that could facilitate China achieving high sustainability in industries.

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Keywords Collective impact, discourse management, energy efficiency, public–private partnership, Voluntary Agreement
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Journal Energy and Environment
Zhang, M. (Mingshun), Cui, Y. (Ying), ter Avest, E. (Erik), & van Dijk, M.P. (Meine Pieter). (2018). Adoption of voluntary approach: Can voluntary approach generate collective impacts for China achieving ambitious energy efficiency targets?. Energy and Environment, 29(2), 281–299. doi:10.1177/0958305X17744491