In Germany, a mandatory sustainability certification on liquid biomass and biofuels has been in place since 2011. Parallel to the energy shift, the raw material shift has been a defined political goal as well. Today, the German industry already processes almost 3 million tons of agricultural biomass into products. A multiple of this is processed globally, with rising tendencies.
Thus, one of the pressing questions of today has been how a sustainability certification in the material sector could be constituted. The „ Initiative on Sustainable Provision of Raw Materials for the Material Use of Biomass“. INRO addresses such issues. Founded in 2011, the goal of the Initiative has been to reach an agreement with industrial entrepreneurs on a voluntary certification of renewable raw material from the cultivation through to the primary processing. Currently, no comparable statutory regulation has been proposed, neither on the national nor the European level.
Today the network comprises 37 participants. Various companies of different industries are represented, including; chemicals, automobile, packaging, consumer, materials, hydraulic and lubricating, paint and lacquer as well as trade associations, German ministries and subsidiary authorities, scientists, environmental and energy associations and German certification systems.
By now a catalogue of sustainability measures is in place, on which all participants agreed upon. It refers to all industrial use soft commodities, including plant oil, sugar, starch, fats and fibbers. Woods and animal fats have so far not been included. Sets of criteria for the protection of the environment (e.g. protection of forests, wetlands, peatery and standards for eco-friendly agricultural activities), social criteria (e.g. no forced/child labour, humane working conditions, respect for the dignity and rights of indigenous people) as well as economic criteria (e.g. anti-corruption measures, transparency) have been determined.
It was imperative to all participants to formulate criteria in a way that would allow for applicable verification on site.
It is essential for the credibility of the certification that it is by no means set arbitrary. Yet, the professional level of the global certification systems is highly diverse. INRO therefore defined “Criteria for a Good Certification System“, in order to hand out advise to companies regarding the selection of their certification systems, and at the same time to provide those systems with suggestions for further development. However, the development of a separate certification system for the material use has not been a component of INRO, since a distinction of what soft commodities might be used for is seldom made during production. Additionally, the setup of a certification system is complex and work-intensive and a double- and multiple certifications would pose an unreasonable demand on farmers, primary distributors, trader and other market participants. This is way INRO merely attuned already established systems to the material use of biomass.
The INRO-Initiative flanks the construction of a bio-economy, enacted on the German and European Level. Germany as well as the European Commission envisaged a bio-economy strategy and the according action plan in early 2012. Of all member states the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark have made major strides in the national implementation, alongside Germany.
In the medium term, INRO aspires the development of a sustainability certification on the European and global level. Over the long term, all utilization paths of biomass must be certified, so as to avoid displacement effects. This implies that the production of foodstuffs and fodder must be globally audited as well. Otherwise the production of biomass for energy and the material use would be conducted on certified lands, while a parallel, unsustainable cultivation of commodities for foodstuffs and fodder would still take place on uncertified lands.
To monitor the sustainability of the global agricultural economy and forestry is a mammoth task. INRO is a first important step on this log way.
Michaele Hustedt of the berlin-based political advisory bureau CPC moderates INRO. Subsidies are being provided by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Customer Protection (BMELV) through its lead partner Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR).
On October 9th, INRO representative introduced the initiative to the broad public on a conference in Berlin. Their inputs can be found under: http://veranstaltungen.fnr.de/inro2013/beitraege/
Please see German version here ….
Source: INRO, press release, 2013-10-31.