Certification of Renewable Resources

Certification of Renewable Resources

Author: Lisa-Marie Rauschendorfer

Sustainable Provision of Raw Materials for the Material Use of Biomass

An information event about the initiative for the Sustainable Provision of Raw Materials for the Material Use of Biomass (Nachhaltige Rohstoffbereitstellung für die stoffliche Biomassennutzung; INRO) was held in Berlin, Germany, on October 9, by the Agency of Renewable Resources (Fachagentur für nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V.; FRN). The purpose of this event was to introduce the INRO initiative, provide an overview of the results achieved so far, and discuss the possibilities of a certification for sustainability in the field of material use of biomass.

In many everyday objects, such as shampoo, toys, lubricants, and plastic bags, petroleum is used as a base material. However, there are three main disadvantages in the use of petroleum: it is not unlimitedly available, its use damages the climate, and often oil extraction takes place in politically unstable regions of the world. Therefore alternatives are highly in demand. Renewable resources for primary products not only have less effect on the climate but also often have properties that are superior to those of the fossil sources, such as being biodegradable.

In the course of the increased utilization of renewable resources, especially as an energy source, there is growing public debate focused on the risks of diverting farmland or crops for the production of biofuel or primary products. Increasing oil prices have promoted the production of biofuels and are leading to higher agricultural price levels. Therefore, the sustainable production of renewable resources is necessary with a strong focus on nature, environment, and people.

The information event by the INRO initiative focused on the sustainable production of renewable primary products and gave an overview about the results of their work so far. Also the possibilities of a certification of sustainability were discussed.

List of Criteria for Sustainable Production

The INRO initiative established a list of criteria as the first important step on the way to sustainable sourcing of renewable primary products. For this purpose representatives from industry, German ministries, research, and NGOs worked together and decided a list of criteria that can subsequently be used as a basis for a certification system.

This list not only includes ecological criteria, such as protection of biospheres, soil, and water, but also social criteria, such as no child or compulsory labor and an adequate salary for workers.

At the same time it is very important that the criteria can be easily included in the daily work of the farmers. Here, two aspects have to be considered:

  1. The criteria have to be applicable to large agribusinesses, as well as, to small farms.
  2. There must not be any differences with pre-existing criteria of sustainability, such as those for the production of biofuels and food, because farmers rarely know what their products will subsequently be used for.

Importance of Sustainable Production

The importance of sustainable renewable primary products was illustrated by two companies participating in the INRO initiative: BASF SE and Danone. Both clearly stated the increasing need for renewable primary products and also presented their efforts made in pilot projects. On the other hand, sustainable production is not highly valued by the costumers and the markets. Many companies therefore still avoid the costly process of acquiring voluntary certificates on sustainability due to high international market pressures.

As an NGO participating in the INRO initiative, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) emphasized the demand for sustainable processes to protect natural habits, such as the rain forests and the savannahs.

Further work of the INRO initiative will include pilot projects to validate their list of criteria, as well as, finding a certification system that can include their criteria. Also, international collaboration will be further extended, as the sustainable production of renewable primary products is clearly an international issue.

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