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Collaboration is the name of the game at RSB’s 2018 Annual Meeting – event wrap-up

Each year RSB brings its community together for the highlight of our calendar: our Annual Meeting. An opportunity to gather our members from many different sectors to discuss and debate the most pressing issues in the development of the sustainable bioeconomy and to make changes to our best-in-class sustainability Standard, the event is an annual focus for brand, business and civil society leaders – and 2018 was no exception.

“As a first-time attendee at the RSB Annual Meeting, the event provided great insight into the organisation and the diversity of the members who brought a high level of technical expertise and experience to the discussions with the shipping” – Kenneth Poucher, A.P. Moller – Maersk

In two days that showcased the importance of collaboration for real progress, RSB members and partners came together for an event filled with open discussion, critical analysis and concrete solutions from stakeholders across the spectrum – from social and environmental NGOs, to academics, big brands and everyone inbetween.

Held at the Titanic Chaussee Hotel in Berlin on the 6th and 7th of December and sponsored by Agrisoma, Airbus and UPM Biofuels, almost 100 participants from across industry and sectors came together for a two-day gathering of minds as we examined the big picture sustainability opportunities and challenges presented by the development of the bioeconomy in 2018 and beyond. Attendees included representatives of producers, end-users, civil society, academia and brands from across our membership – and beyond.

“The RSB Annual Assembly was a fantastic opportunity to share best practices and views on sustainability – particularly with a view to using the lessons and expertise we have gained in the aviation sector to support the decarbonisation of other industries, particularly maritime.” – Frederic Eychenne, Director – Air Transport and Public Affairs – GOA, Airbus

Day One kicked off with a keynote address by Vice President of Lanzatech and latest RSB Board Member, Laurel Harmon, who set the scene for a range of exciting and timely discussions and debates, by reminding us that carbon is precious and should be treated as such – not used for energy when there are so many alternatives available – and that circularity is key.

The sessions that followed included a focus on the importance of building scale, incorporating the principles of circularity and moving beyond the ‘wow’ factor. Speakers like Maiju Helin from UPM Biofuels, Glenn Johnston from Agrisoma, Giulia Carbone from IUCN, Sandra Combet from Air France, Neva Murtha from Canopy and Udo Felten from SIG Combibloc discussed the perspectives and challenges of building meaningful approaches to working in the circular bioeconomy.

Next, Klaske Kruk of Dutch-based consultancy circularities led a panel discussion on meaningful impact via the scaling up of the circular bioeconomy. Speakers from P&G, WWF, SkyNRG, ClimateWorks Foundation, European Bioplastics Association, Airbus, Steeper Energy and Ethical Sugar discussed the challenge of developing scale and sustainability hand-in-hand from a multitude of perspectives.

We then looked at how to engage new regions and sectors during a Global Showcase that highlighted the requirement for the shipping industry to develop a truly sustainable fuels strategy – and what the sector can learn from the progress made by aviation – as well as the role of voluntary schemes in supporting the bioeconomy in China.

The shipping panel – held in partnership with the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) – saw a real effort to unlock the expertise and experience of the aviation industry with its decade long headstart in developing an alternative fuel strategy. The shipping focus attempted to answer questions such as: How do we build a truly sustainable shipping industry by 2040? What lessons can be learned from the trail already being blazed by the aviation industry? What technical and supply chain expertise is needed to create the truly sustainable alternative fuels the industry needs to become a leader in the fight against climate change?

“We are ambitious: decarbonising the maritime sector is a huge task! But we have seen that it is possible to change an industry narrative to become more sustainable, just as we have seen in the aviation industry,” said Andrew Stephens, SSI’s Executive Director. “We believe that we will find better solutions, faster, by building alliances with and learning from other industries and leaders. We, at the SSI, are delighted to be collaborating with the RSB at this session, and we’re looking forward to discussing ways of how we can draw on your experiences for the maritime sector’s sustainability journey.”

The final part of the day saw a focus on China and the role of global schemes in supporting the development of the bioeconomy there. Setting the scene, RSB’s Business Development Director, Marcelle Peuckert, shared powerful visuals of China’s rapid growth before Amy Malaki of the ClimateWorks Foundation highlighted the pace of change in the region – and how it must not be overstated. Panellists Karin Kreider of ISEAL, Shutong Liu of MotionECO, Liping Kang of Innovation Centre for Energy and Transportation, Bing Xu of Heriot Watt University and Neva Murtha of Canopy Planet then presented their views on challenges and opportunities in  China for growing a sustainable bioeconomy. An important take-away was the need for more government and industry engagement in the work of global sustainability standards.

Day 2 was kicked off by Karin Kreider, Executive Director of ISEAL, who joined us to give an overview of the ISEAL approach, its best practice and why credible sustainability standards rely on ISEAL’s Codes of Good Practice to drive their development and innovation.

We welcomed partners from around the world to examine experiences in implementing the RSB Standard worldwide – South Africa, Ethiopia, Mexico, India and the Philippines were represented – and to look at the next steps to open new markets and have a real impact in emerging bioeconomies.

As part of our formal Assembly of Delegates, Day 2 saw the approval of our groundbreaking Standard for Advanced Products – the culmination of over 18 months of consultation with expert working groups and members is. The Standard provides the most robust set of sustainability requirements and criteria for the certification of non-energy products (including textiles, packaging, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and plastics). For the first time, products from recycled carbon and non-biogenic waste will be able to carry real and credible sustainability claims.

RSB’s Executive Director, Rolf Hogan, has this to say, “We are incredibly pleased to see this innovative standard – the result of the hard work and expertise of so many of members of our community – be approved at our Assembly. It truly reflects both the groundbreaking work of so many organisations in our community in developing cutting edge technologies as well as their commitment to real and meaningful sustainability.”

The meeting was wrapped up with the Assembly approving a new methodology for modelling displacement emissions – to be piloted over the next three years – and minor adaptations to our Standard for Advanced Fuels. Following some final assembly business, Stephen Wetmore, Chair of the RSB Board of Directors, closed the meeting with a vote of thanks to all of the delegates, members, partners and sponsors who joined us and a wrap up of an incredible, collaborative session.

We look forward to next year!


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