International sustainable biofuels certification system unveiled

By National Wildlife Federation | March 22, 2011

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels launched the first global third-party certification system for sustainable biofuels March 22. The RSB Certification System includes environmental, social and economic principles and criteria and features a unique set of online tools aimed at taking the complexity out of compliance and streamlining certification.

“It’s one thing to say your product is sustainable and another to prove it,” said Barbara Bramble, Senior Advisor for the International Climate and Energy Program at the National Wildlife Federation. “This new system makes it easy to differentiate between biofuels that are environmentally destructive and biofuels that deliver on the promise of sustainability.” 

The certification system covers the major issues of concern in biofuels’ production, including their contribution to climate change mitigation and rural development; their protection of land and labor rights; and their impacts on biodiversity, soil and water pollution, water availability and food security.

National Wildlife Federation played a key role in establishing this global standard for the voluntary certification of biofuels and hopes the new system will help end biofuels production practices that are harmful to the climate and environment. NWF’s Barbara Bramble has analyzed the environmental and social aspects of biofuels production, and served on the Steering Board of the RSB since it was created. She was elected Chair of the RSB’s Steering Board in 2009.

“All biofuels are not created equal,” said Bramble. “Bringing accountability, consistency and transparency to the global biofuels market is a giant first step toward stopping those practices that result in tropical deforestation, habitat destruction and increased pollution. The RSB is all about enabling biofuels markets to reward those producers who protect natural resources and avoid negative impacts on local communities.”

The certification system will be operated by RSB Services, which is the business arm of the RSB, providing access to the certification process, licensing, and auditors’ training among other activities.

Under the new system, biofuel producers that receive RSB certification will be able to:

  • Assure their customers that their product is responsibly produced, positioning RSB-certified operators favorably in their markets.
  • “Know their biomass/biofuel” by being able to trace the origin of the product along the entire supply chain through various chain-of-custody models.
  • Receive market recognition as leaders in biofuels’ sustainable production, which is increasingly important to major fuel buyers and to regulators.
  • Benefit from a competitive advantage resulting from the RSB members’ active work to build market demand for certified fuels, especially for certification of entire supply chains.

The RSB is a multistakeholder initiative, hosted by the Energy Center of EPFL (one of Switzerland’s foremost technical universities). The RSB sustainability standard represents a global consensus of more than 120 organizations representing industry and civil society; the voluntary certification system was intentionally designed to ensure the sustainability of biofuels production while streamlining compliance for industry.

“Getting more than 120 organizations, including farmers, refiners, retailers and NGOs, to come to an agreement on a set of standards is no small feat,” said Bramble. “Now we look to the marketplace to recognize industry leaders who are getting it right by producing biofuels that benefit both people and the planet.”


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