Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels

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Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) edit
The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels is officially open for business.
See PDF factsheets about the RSB:

RSB Overview | RSB - Frequently Asked Questions
RSB Certification Fact Sheet | Certification FAQs

RSB Public Consultation on the issue of Indirect Impacts:
Background Paper “Indirect Impacts of biofuel production and the RSB Standard”(PDF file) -- Deadline to provide feedback: May 15, 2012.

Feedback Form available at

Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels

Secretariat webpage

Steering Board and Chambers

Sustainability Criteria:

RSB Principles and Criteria (version 2.0)
Official Brochure


Terms of Reference
Application Form
List of Current Members


-RSB launch press release
-RSB Flyer (pdf)
-RSB Intro to Feedback Mechanisms
-Commenting on RSB Drafts Using the BioenergyWiki (PDF File)
-RSB Draft Principles - June 5, 2007 (PDF File)

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) is a key multi-stakeholder initiative to develop standards for the sustainability of biofuels. The Roundtable is an initiative of the Swiss EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) Energy Center. The goal of the RSB is to create and implement a certification system based on these standards to ensure that biofuels deliver on their promise of sustainability. After a six month public consultation on "Version Zero", Version 1 of the "international standard for better biofuel production and processing[1]" was approved in December of 2009 by the RSB board for pilot testing. Version One will be further improved and refined into "Version 2.0", to be released in November 2010.



  • New Public Consultation! The RSB will open a public consultation on the revised version of the Principles & Criteria, Indicators, Guidance and other related documents. Consultation will start on the 6th of September 2010 (duration: 1 month). More info available soon!
  • Read the new Introduction to the RSB Certification Systems (PDF) for detailed information on the certification system.

Overview of standards

According to the organizers of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, this initiative aims to develop standards that are:Source: RSB Flyer (PDF file)

  • Simple - "The standards should be accessible by small producers, inexpensive to measure, and easy to explain."
  • Generic - "The standards should be applicable to any crop in any country, and allow comparisons across crops and production systems."
  • Adaptable - "The standards should be easy to revise to take into account new technologies and their impacts on relative performance of different biofuels."
  • Efficient - EPFL aims "to incorporate other standards and certifications to eliminate duplicative reporting and reduce inspection burdens on producers and processors.

In line with its initial commitment that "All standards development work will be done in an open and transparent way, with ample comment periods", the RSB is now an associate member of the ISEAL, and will keep implementing the ISEAL code of good practice."

Debates and burning issues

  • The criterion on greenhouse gases “currently requires a significant reduction of GHG emissions over the lifecycle of biofuels compared to a fossil fuel reference”. Two studies are currently being implemented to determine the GHG' emissions resulting from the production and use of biofuels and the level that will be considered sustainable. There will be an assessment of the measures and costs associated with reductions of greenhouse gases at 10%, 40% and 70% reduction levels in order to choose a minimum threshold for the standard. (Source: Way forward on Principle 3 (GHG emissions) (PDF).)
  • The indirect land use changes which occur as a result of biofuel crops is a prominent issue for calculating GHG emissions. The RSB understands the importance of this issue and is looking at commissioning or designing a study, as well as continuing to work with other NGO’s and governments to understand and include ILUC’s in the standard.

See the timeline on this page for more information on plans by the RSB Expert Groups on Greenhouse Gases and Indirect Impacts.


  • GHG measures: The timeline shall be as follows:
    • By 1 December 2009 the GHG expert group shall review the EMPA methodology and will report back to the RSB secretariat any objections based on scientific grounds.
    • By 1 December 2009 Study 1 will begin and will be completed within 18 weeks (end of March 2010). *Study 2 will build on the results obtained in Study 1. Study 2 shall be completed by 1 May 2010.
    • The GHG expert group will be consulted throughout the course of the Studies.
    • By 15 May 2010, the results of the studies will be submitted to the Steering Board and discussed in a teleconference call. In addition, Steering Board members may distribute the results to their Chambers for feedback.
    • The Steering Board shall set a minimum GHG emission reduction threshold during the June 2010 Steering Board in--‐person meeting.

Information from the Way forward on Principle 3 (GHG emissions) (PDF).

  • Indirect impacts: Proposed Milestones and Deadlines:
    • December 2009 – Create Expert Group on Indirect Impacts
    • April 2010 – Finalize studies / assessments / papers listed above with extensive input from the Expert Group on Indirect Impacts as well as the GHG Expert Group
    • May 2010 – 1st draft of proposal for integrating indirect impacts in P&Cs, Definitions, Indicators
    • May/June 2010 – Indirect impact workshop to discuss previous two items and propose new solutions
    • June 2010 – RSB Steering Board to take stock of the latest progress on the topic and to consider a proposal on indirect impact integration in P&Cs, Definitions, Indicators

Information from the Way forward on Indirect Impacts (PDF).


  • Click here to see the report and presentations of the 1st RSB stakeholder meeting (28th of November, 2006)!
  • Click here to view all the background documents and reports from the RSB discussions between April 2007 and August 2008.
  • After releasing the "Version Zero" in August 2008, the RSB coordinated an international dialogue in conjunction with non-governmental organizations, companies, governments and inter-governmental groups from all over the world through the BioenergyWiki, emails, virtual meetings and regional stakeholder meetings.
  • Consultation and discussions on "Version Zero" (on the way to Version 1) was open through February 2009. The Roundtable did extensive outreach to all relevant stakeholder groups including opportunities at the following conferences throughout 2009: internationally at Natur Kongress, World Biofuel Market and Asian Biofuels Roundtable and in North America at the Southeastern United States RSB Stakeholder Consultation, Western United States RSB Stakeholder Consultation and Midwest US Stakeholder Outreach Meeting. For more information, including agendas and presentations from the North American events see the wiki page "RSB outreach in the Americas".


The RSB team will be attending the following events.

RSB Newsletters


  • RSB announces Public Consultation on the issue of Indirect Impacts (PDF file), 13 April 2012 by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB): "During the past three years, the RSB Secretariat, based at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), has collected a considerable volume of information, data and knowledge about indirect impacts of biofuel production, thanks in part to the contribution of the RSB indirect impacts expert group (IIEG). It is now time for the RSB constituencies to decide on a way forward regarding a possible inclusion of indirect impacts in the RSB Standard.
    • "In May-June 2012, RSB members will discuss the issue of indirect impacts in a series of RSB Chamber calls and during the June in-person Steering Board meeting. But before these discussions take place at the membership level, the RSB Secretariat is launching Public Consultation on the subject, in which all members of the general public are invited to provide us with feedback on this issue."
    • "For this purpose, the RSB Secretariat has drafted the attached Background Paper (PDF file) (“Indirect Impacts of biofuel production and the RSB Standard”) that is meant to be a neutral and objective representation of indirect impacts, state of knowledge, potential options to address the issue in the Standard (including the option not to address it), and an evaluation of such options. This paper will form the basis for the public consultation and also for the discussion at the Chamber and Steering Board level."
    • Summary timeline for this consultation:
      • Public consultation (1 month): April 13 – May 15
      • RSB Chambers consultation: 2nd half of May
      • Steering Board Meeting and decision on way forward: June 12-13
    • To submit feedback, send an email or a marked-up pdf document to: victoria.junquera[at] or use the Feedback Form available at before May 15, 2012.
  • Major Milestone for Sustainable Biofuels -- World's first sustainable biofuels certification under new RSB international standards , 10 February 2010 by National Wildlife Federation: "The NCS International announced on Thursday that it has certified the world's first biofuels operation to achieve certification against the Principles and Criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB).
    • "The RSB has developed a third-party certification system for biofuels sustainability standards, encompassing environmental, social and economic principles and criteria through an open, transparent, and multi-stakeholder process. National Wildlife Federation played a key role in establishing this global standard for the voluntary certification of biofuels and hopes the new system will promote good practices on the ground, and eventually help end biofuels production practices that are harmful to the climate and environment."
    • ""Barbara Bramble, Senior Advisor for the International Climate and Energy Program at the National Wildlife Federation, and Chair of the Board of the RSB, said today:
      • "'We are pleased that the Manildra Group has achieved certification, under the RSB's global system of Principles and Criteria, for their wheat flour production operation, Shoalhaven Starches Pty Ltd. This is a significant achievement for the Australian-based project, which makes biofuels out of an otherwise potentially polluting waste stream, so it fulfills several objectives at once."
    • "For more information on the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, visit"[2]
    • See also the website of RSB Services
  • Website of RSB Services Launched, 10 February 2012, by RSB Services: "The RSB Services Foundation is a US-based non-profit organization to implement the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels’ sustainability standard. The RSB Services Foundation works with companies who wish to become certified and third party verifiers (i.e. Certification Bodies) to maintain the tools and internal systems for the RSB certification process...."
    • "If you would like to apply for RSB certification please click here to learn how to begin the application process."[3]
  • RSB Releases New Summary Paper on Indirect Impacts, 31 August 2011 by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels: The RSB's Indirect Impacts Expert Group released a new paper summarizing activities by the RSB Secretariat related to the indirect impacts of biofuels.
    • "The RSB Secretariat is engaged in various activities in the area of indirect impacts of biofuel production. For instance, the Secretariat is collaborating with WWF International, Ecofys and other project partners on the development of a Certification module for Low-Indirect Impacts Biofuels (CIIB). The methodology lists certain categories of biofuels & biofuel feedstocks with a certifiably low risk of causing indirect impacts. The CIIB methodology will inform the RSB Secretariat's proposal to the Steering Board regarding how to address indirect impacts in the RSB Standard. In addition, the Secretariat is assessing the possibility of determining ILUC factors for biofuels/biofuel feedstocks produced on arable land, and it is looking at other innovative options to prevent negative indirect impacts..."[4]
    • Download the paper, Summary: Indirect Impacts and the RSB (PDF)
  • First EU sustainability schemes for biofuels get the go-ahead, 19 July 2011 press release by the European Commission: "In order to receive government support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU, whether locally produced or imported, have to comply with sustainability criteria. These criteria aim at preventing the conversion of areas of high biodiversity and high carbon stock for the production of raw materials for biofuels. In practice this means that biofuels made of crops that have been grown on land that used to be rainforest or natural grassland with a unique ecosystem cannot be considered as sustainable. In addition, the greenhouse gas emissions over the whole production chain need to be at least 35% lower compared to fossil fuels. That threshold will increase over time."
    • "Companies can choose whether to demonstrate compliance with these sustainability requirements through national systems or by joining a voluntary scheme which is recognised by the Commission."
    • "After a detailed assessment made by the Commission and various improvements the following schemes were recognised:
      • ISCC (German (government financed) scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • Bonsucro EU (Roundtable initiative for sugarcane based biofuels, focus on Brazil)
      • RTRS EU RED (Roundtable initiative for soy based biofuels, focus on Argentina and Brazil)
      • RSB EU RED (Roundtable initiative covering all types of biofuels)
      • 2BSvs (French industry scheme covering all types of biofuels)
      • RSBA (Industry scheme for Abengoa covering their supply chain)
      • Greenergy (Industry scheme for Greenergy covering sugar cane ethanol from Brazil)
    • "The Commission is currently discussing with other voluntary schemes how these can also improve their standard in order to meet the sustainability requirements for biofuels."[5]
  • New biofuel sustainability assessment tool and GHG calculator released, 16 June 2011 by e! Science News: "The new tool allows users to perform a self-assessment against the Principles and Criteria of the RSB and a self-risk assessment. The online tool also calculates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of biofuels for each lifecycle production step, from farming to final fuel distribution; this calculation can be done according to various methodologies."
    • "The development of the new tool, which is directly accessible (free of charge) at, took about two years and was supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)."
    • "To facilitate the RSB certification process, Empa – in collaboration with the HTW Berlin – developed a web-based tool allowing for the online calculation of biofuels' GHG emissions."
    • "Various GHG calculation methods are implemented, including the Swiss standard (for mineral-oil tax-relief), the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED) standard, the Californian standard and the RSB standard."
    • "By allowing a risk assessment of biofuels production and an evaluation based on the RSB sustainability principles, the tool forms the entry point to the RSB sustainability certification."
    • "The tool is freely available on the internet and can be used by any interested party who wishes to perform lifecycle GHG calculations of biofuels or assess their biofuel operations; it allows the user to conduct a self-assessment against the RSB Principles & Criteria and a self-risk assessment against the RSB Standard for Risk Management."[6]
  • Gauge agreed for biofuel effects on world, 24 May 2011 by the Financial Times: "Official measures for gauging the effect of bio-energy on food prices and the environment have been agreed by the world’s leading economies in a move that could undermine support for some forms of biofuel production."
    • "The move by the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP), a Rome-based group backed by governments and international organisations, is a response to concerns that the rapid growth of biofuels and other forms of bio-energy is causing global hunger and environmental damage."
    • "The measures include assessments of the effects on food prices, greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use, for biofuels such as ethanol and biomass such as woodchips used for power generation."
    • "The indicators are voluntary, but Michela Morese, manager of the GBEP’s secretariat, said there was an expectation that 'each and every developed country should be producing these measures'."
    • "The results could be problematic for some of well-developed bio-energy industries, such as ethanol made from corn in the US and wheat in Europe, and bio-diesel made from palm oil from Indonesia."
    • "Nathanael Greene, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a US environmental group, said more progress in setting standards had been made by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, an independent body that includes governments, campaigners and some oil and ethanol producers."[7]
    • Read the document, "GBEP Sustainability Indicators" (PDF file)
  • Campaigners should support aviation industry biofuel trials, 20 April 2011 by Paul Steele of the Air Transport Action Group in The Ecologist: "Having seen the issues caused by road transport’s use of first generation sources, the aviation industry has been proactive in trying to ‘do it right,’ from the start. At the same time, the aviation industry does not have the luxury of a variety of renewable energy sources like other sectors (wind, solar, hydrogen etc) and is therefore focussed on developing second generation sustainable biofuels as a means of reducing GHG emissions."
    • "We have been working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels to set in place a set of robust criteria to determine the sustainability of feedstock, including the impact that these crops will have on local populations and lifecycle CO2 emissions. Grown responsibly, jatropha can have a positive impact on the livelihoods of those growing it and also bring about impressive reductions in carbon emissions."
    • "In fact, a recent Yale University study showed that jatropha plantations in Brazil are able to have as much as an 85 per cent decrease in lifecycle carbon emissions, when grown in a responsible way. But jatropha is just one potential source of biofuel for aviation – a range of non-food crops and advanced biomass sources such as algae promise to provide low-carbon fuel for air transport."[8]
  • Joint Statement on the Launch of the Roundtable for Sustainable Biofuels Certification System, 22 March 2011 by Conservation International: "As international environmental organizations, we welcome the launch of the new RSB certification system (, as we believe that it is crucial for biofuels to be produced in a way that is consistent with sustainable land use choices and natural resource management, contributing to both positive economic and social development."
    • "Our organizations contributed to the RSB process, along with more than 100 organizations from over 40 countries, participating in the development of its principles and criteria, and the associated certification system. We feel that the stakeholder engagement process followed by the RSB, which followed ISEAL Alliance code of conduct for standard-setting process, enhanced the credibility and value of the RSB standard and certification system."
    • "Regulators should also recognize this initiative and ensure that economic operators using this standard benefit from the various incentives for sustainable biofuels. To this effect, we would like to call on all relevant economic operators to make commitments with regards to the production or procurement of RSB certified biofuels to facilitate the adoption of the standard."[9]
  • International sustainable biofuels certification system unveiled, 22 March 2011 by Biodiesel Magazine: "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."
    • "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."[10]
  • Hawaiian Electric seeks suppliers of biodiesel for Campbell Industrial Park Generating Station, 1 February 2011 press release by the Hawaiian Electric Company: "Hawaiian Electric Company today issued a call for a supply of three to seven million gallons of biodiesel per year for the 110-megawatt Campbell Estate Industrial Park Generating Station."
    • "The request for proposals (RFP) states Hawaiian Electric’s preference for locally produced biodiesel. In addition, Hawaiian Electric places a qualitative value on biodiesel made in the United States from domestic feedstocks."
    • "All biofuel provided to any Hawaiian Electric Company must conform to environmental guidelines for the sustainable use of biofuels developed by Hawaiian Electric Company in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council."
    • "In addition, the Hawaii Biofuels Foundation is currently developing guidelines for sustainable production of local biofuels in partnership with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels."[11]
  • Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels adopts 50% GHG Threshold for Compliant Fuel Blends, 23 July 2010 by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels: As reported in the Summary Report of the RSB Steering Board Meeting held 15-17 June 2010 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the RSB Steering Board adopted a “significant and ambitious” decision regarding the GHG Emissions Threshold (Criterion 3c) that should be established for RSB-qualifying biofuels.
    • The decision adopted by consensus was that "[T]he blend obtained by a retailer/blender by mixing RSB compliant biofuels from various sources, shall have 50% lower GHG emissions than fossil fuel on average. Such blend of biofuels or a neat biofuel (i.e. pure biofuel sold unblended) cannot make any claim of compliance if it does not reduce GHG emissions by 50%."
    • In addition, 'all individual RSB compliant biofuels shall have lower GHG emissions over their life cycle, compared to the fossil fuel baseline".[12]
  • Alaska Airlines, Boeing, & Airports Partner on Biofuels, 14 July 2010 by Bill DiBenedetto: "Their endeavor, called the “Sustainable Aviation Fuel Northwest” project, is the first regional assessment of its kind in the U.S., according to a joint announcement from the group this week."
    • "The assessment will examine all phases of developing a sustainable biofuel industry, including biomass production and harvest, refining, transport infrastructure and actual use by airlines. It will include an analysis of potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including algae, agriculturally based oilseeds such as camelina, wood byproducts and others. The project is jointly funded by the participating parties and is expected to be completed in about six months."
    • "Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh added, 'Developing a sustainable aviation fuel supply now is a top priority both to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity at regional levels and to support the broader aim of achieving carbon-neutral growth across the industry by 2020.'"
    • "The assessment process will be managed by Climate Solutions, an Olympia, WA, environmental nonprofit organization, which will align the effort to sustainability criteria developed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. The project’s objective is to identify potential pathways and necessary actions to make aviation biofuel commercially available to airline operators serving the region."[13]

                        Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels edit
RSB Public Consultation
RSB sustainability criteria: Version 2.0
RSB working groups: Greenhouse Gases (GHG WG) Environment (ENV WG) | Implementation (IMP WG)
Social Impacts (SOC WG)
RSB launch press release | RSB Intro to Feedback Mechanisms | Commenting on RSB Drafts Using the BioenergyWiki (PDF)
RSB outreach in the Americas | RSB Current Debate on Land Use
Recent changes to BioenergyWiki related to the RSB
Sustainability standards edit
Organizations/Initiatives: Better Sugarcane Initiative | Forest Stewardship Council | Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels | Responsible Commodities Initiative | EU: GAVE | LowCVP

Policy proposals: Green Biofuels Index
Key terms: Ecological Footprint | Life-cycle analysis | Eco-labelling


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