ONE YEAR OF STAR4BBS
Funded under “HORIZONCL6- 2021-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-07”, Star4BBS aims to maximize the potential of Sustainability Certification Schemes (SCS) and labels to support a successful transition to a bio-based economy.
By tracing sustainability impacts along the supply chain, certification schemes and labels are crucial to unlocking the potential of bio-based systems in achieving several sustainable development goals (SDGs). However, the rapid proliferation of schemes and labels has led to questioning their effectiveness and robustness, as well as to what extent they deliver important outcomes in line with sustainability policy priorities.
STAR4BBS implementation activities have started one year ago, with project partners’ efforts focused on the setup of the initial framework: the collection and systematic review of information related to international and EU SCS, B2B labels, and their relevance for biological feedstocks, bio-based materials and products, in order to establish a monitoring system assessing SCS and labels.
At the core of this work is the gathering of precise global trade data and information regarding the volumes of biogenic feedstocks and bio-based materials imported into the EU. This work will identify the most relevant biomass flows and provide a comprehensive overview of certified and non-certified biomass flows, thus contributing significantly to the impact assessment and contribution of sustainability certification and labelling. Relevant stakeholders are regularly involved to discuss strategies and to ensure that relevant information, feedback and inputs are collected and evaluated.
Why is this work important?
The bio-based industry plays a crucial role in transition to a more sustainable and circular economy, as it spans several sectors, including agriculture, forestry, chemicals, plastics and textiles. This industry uses biological feedstocks, such as crops, wood and waste streams, to produce a wide range of materials and products. As a result, it has the potential to make a significant contribution to sustainability goals, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving resource efficiency and promoting circular economy. It can also have a positive impact on socio-economic objectives of local and regional development, promoting the use of regional resources and the creation of green jobs. However, the use of bio-based feedstocks needs to be carefully regulated and controlled to mitigate negative environmental and social impacts, such as deforestation, soil erosion, biodiversity loss and the exploitation of child labor in developing countries.
To facilitate this transition and ensure the credibility of sustainability claims, Sustainability Certification Schemes (SCS) and labels serve as critical tools, as they provide independent verification and validation of sustainability efforts and promote transparency and accountability throughout supply chains. These SCS,however, may face challenges like limited scope, high costs and lack of harmonisation, the last one being one of the main drawbacks.
Currently, there is a rising number of SCS and labels in the EU, each with their own set of criteria and standards: this can lead to confusion among businesses and consumers, as well as increased operational costs for companies operating in several countries and seeking regional or national certifications. Businesses are often burdened with providing documentation to demonstrate compliance with different criteria. For consumers, the plethora of labels with different criteria and standards makes it difficult to make informed choices.
A lot of work has been already done by the project team, like the establishment of a synergy with two sister projects (HARMONITOR and SUSTCERT4BIOBASED).
The three projects joined forces to maximize the outcomes and outreaches of their activities. One of those is the collaborative process of developing the Joint Monitoring System (JMS), and its subsequent application that will add transparency to bio-based value chains and build the foundations to support schemes and labels in aligning and harmonizing their systems to support shared sustainability goals. The 3 projects also established a strong collaboration that will boost the implementation of joint dissemination activities, thanks to the European Commission’s Horizon Results Booster programme (HRB).
The STAR4BBS project coordinator Dr. Luana Ladu (TUB), during the recent IFIB conference in Florence, participated in the round table on “How to measure the bioeconomy“, highlighting the complexity of the issue and the importance of considering systemic impact assessments.
It is clear that a harmonization of metrics is needed to establish effective and robust certification systems for the bio-based industry, that substantiate sustainability claims. This will contribute to efficiently achieve objectives and sustainability targets prioritized in EU-relevant policies and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).