This paper provides a descriptive historical analysis of failure and success factors during the implementation phase of environmental voluntary agreements (VAs) in Mexico. Secondary source data suggest that over the past two decades, perceptions of VAs have changed, and the purpose of this paper was to identify the driving factors behind that change. The analytical framework has three components: the first one refers to prior research findings on the perceptions of the Mexican private sector. The second and third components draw on previously reported ‘successful’ characteristics in voluntary approaches. By including a range of interest groups, the authors aimed to include those aspects of communication processes described as ‘lobbying’ by several authors. A major outcome of this analysis is that the low level of ‘trust’ among actors amounted to a failure factor when implementing a VA but that, after 14 years, the level of ‘trust’ had increased resulting in a cooperative attitude among actors. Communication effectiveness had an important role in the ‘trust’ building process, leading to the conclusion that communication processes had also improved. Although this cannot be claimed as a direct result of the lobbying processes, this research has identified the influence of ‘lobbying’ in facilitating the successful implementation of a VA. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.