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RSB’s Community Collaborates At 2019 Annual Meeting

With purpose and commitment RSB’s members and stakeholders gather each year at RSB’s Annual Meeting and 2019 was no different. Our community of bioeconomy leaders — covering producers, end users, NGOs, public organisations and academics — come together to build a vision for the sustainable bioeconomy, in what has become a highlight every year for RSB members and stakeholders as we seek better ways to shape a transition towards a circular, net positive world.

Over two days of dialogue, discussion, and collaboration, the community contributed to the development of a roadmap for sustainability in the bioeconomy, explored how we can do more than reduce carbon emissions and how best to stimulate circularity, addressed specific challenges around supply and production, looked at key sectors (shipping and aviation) and discussed the evolving role of RSB in the advanced bio-based economy.

Sponsored by Airbus, Boeing, ClimateWorks Foundation, INEOS, Nuseed and UPM Biofuels, with generous support from GOL Airlines, Steeper Energy and Velocys, RSB’s Annual Meeting in Berlin on the 5th and 6th of  December 2019 introduced exciting new topics and interactive approaches to truly bring our participatory roundtable to life.

“Through visual scribing RSB took us out of the typical conference format and created a dynamic space to share ideas/learnings on sustainability that captured us all”

 – Glenn Johnston, Global Regulatory Carinata, Nuseed

Once again, the RSB Annual Meeting demonstrated the importance of collaboration for real progress, with RSB members and partners across the spectrum bringing insight, critical analysis, and concrete solutions to a group of nearly 100 participants.

Unlocking the collective expertise and experience of these participants was a key focus for the meeting, and was at the heart of the morning session where we used two new interactive tools for the first time — on-site polling and live digital scribing — to collectively develop a roadmap for the sustainable bioeconomy.

Tom Farrand, of Human Energy Co, helped our audience to navigate three leadership stories from Nuseed, UPM Biofuels and INEOS to unpack the potential, lessons, and critical ingredients needed to drive impact in the bioeconomy. Using dynamic live polling our audience was able to give feedback, ask questions, and raise ideas throughout the session, while Matt Kemp from Scriberia sketched the session live on screen.

“The RSB standard has shattered the glass ceiling, accelerating development in the bioeconomy space.”

– Jason Leadbitter, Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, INOVYN



Energised, we moved on to a panel discussion regarding emerging producers, where we heard from Perry Toms, CEO of Steeper Energy, Jeff McDaniel, VP New Projects at Velocys, Karen O’Brien, Process Engineer with Gevo, , and Bing Xu, Associate Professor in Finance at Heriot Watt University, in a discussion about how to build long-term sustainable supply, as well as an exploration of options for creating consumer awareness, unlocking investment, and ensuring real climate benefit and positive social and environmental impacts from new and innovative fuels.

Next, we heard from Andrew Stephens, Executive Director of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, who gave us a sneak peek at their new report on The Role of Sustainable Biofuels in the Decarbonisation of Shipping. The result of a multistakeholder consultation, which RSB contributed to, the report examines the key issues of food vs fuel and crop vs waste, along with supply challenges and the importance of certification in ensuring that sustainability issues are resolved.

Contributing experience from the aviation industry, Robert Boyd, of IATA, focused on the importance of engaging airlines and shippers in the sustainability journey from the very beginning, with both education and support being key to ensuring their buy-in. Pedro Piris-Cabezas, Senior Economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, discussed the complexities of developing CORSIA for the aviation industry, and highlighted the importance of focusing on the emissions reductions that alternative fuels can provide toward achieving the Paris Agreement’s climate commitments and the SDGs.

There are many lessons from the aviation journey that the shipping industry can draw on, as the two share similar decarbonisation goals, in industries that are technologically difficult to decarbonise in the short to medium term without the use of alternative fuels.

The last session of the day saw key experts from the aviation sector being quizzed by the moderator, Christopher Surgenor, editor and publisher of the magazine Greenair Online, about key trends in the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) ecosystem.


Jef de Vries from SkyNRG and Sam Edwards from Skyscanner discussed SkyNRG’s Board Now initiative, which allows corporate customers to decrease their company’s emissions by directly investing in SAF development, before Adrian Gane from Etihad and Christie Burley from airline group IAG talked about the role of airlines in SAF development.

Etihad provided insight into the innovative SAF project in Abu Dhabi, which integrates food and fuel production and is currently seeking investment to scale, while IAG provided insight into their UK project in partnership with Velocys which will produce SAF out of household waste. Dr Laurel Harmon from LanzaTech then joined Stéphane Thion from Total in discussing the challenges involved in bringing SAF production from pilot to scale. The session ended with a frank exchange of views between leading aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus, represented by Onofre Andrade and Steven La Moing respectively, around the need to future-proof feedstock by working with the RSB to ensure a sustainable supply of feedstock for SAF refineries.

Wrapping up this inspiring day, our delegates moved to a jazz club for dinner, drinks, and more conversation.

Kicking off Day 2 with our closed formal assembly business, Maiju Helin, Chair of the RSB Board of Directors, noted that RSB members are the backbone of the organisation and that as a small organisation we benefit from agility and minimised bureaucracy.

“Delegates steer the ship of the RSB.”

– Maiju Helin, Chair of the RSB Board of Directors.

Rolf Hogan, RSB’s Executive Director, gave an overview of the organisation in 2018, highlighting the increased number of certifications, addition of new members in many sectors, growth in advisory services, and another year of positive financial results.

Looking ahead, RSB is aiming to streamline its business model and certification process, expand into new regions, and continue to grow its self-generated income. Members were given the opportunity to ask questions and explore RSB’s ideas and direction, with immediate feedback from the secretariat and board.

Next, Elena Schmidt, RSB’s Standards Director, provided an overview of the RSB Standards work in 2019 and the outlook for 2020. She first provided clarity on the differences between Procedures, Guidance & Benchmarks, and Tools, and then looked at the revised RSB Procedure on Developing Standards, Procedures and Guidance — which the assembly was invited to comment on.

Looking to 2020, RSB’s Standard Development work will follow three streams: regulatory standards (e.g. CORSIA and RED II), core standards (e.g. revisions to the RSB Principles & Criteria) and guidance (e.g. simplified guidance for traders and others to be developed as needed).

Finally, an overview of developments to the RSB Risk Management Tool and the RSB Assurance Process was provided, again with an opportunity for members to comment.

The final part of the closed session was wrapped up with formal assembly business, as required by RSB’s Governance structure.

Opening the meeting back to the public, Maiju Helin asked the audience to focus on the “where to” for RSB, given the urgency of responding to the climate crisis and other major risks. Setting the scene, Rolf Hogan and RSB’s Business Development Director, Stephen Wetmore, directed the audience’s attention to the Evolving Role of RSB in a rapidly changing world.

RSB’s role has changed significantly in recent years: moving beyond standard development and certification, to include advisory services and diverse partnerships.  These partnerships have focused on promoting the development of sustainable supply chains and the uptake of bio-based and advanced fuels and products. This work has included building strategic frameworks, developing regional bioeconomy platforms and testing innovative approaches to accelerate uptake. Key RSB partners were invited to reflect on RSB’s role and value in these areas and look at ways in which RSB can build on these initiatives to increase its impact.

Gabriella Isidro, of INEOS, discussed RSB’s role in making the certification of their new generation of Advanced Products possible, followed by Kristin Lewis from the US Department of Transportation discussing the importance of RSB’s role at a policy level through our input in the development of the ICAO CORSIA regulations.

Next, Makiko Soma, of WWF Japan looked at the importance of a GHG Standard for the country’s use of bioenergy, as it seeks to double renewable production in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, and RSB’s potential role there in offering a recognised standard.

After that, Tjasa Bole-Rentel, of WWF South Africa looked at the power of partnership in developing regional bioeconomies, with a focus on Africa and the benefits of incorporating RSB’s social, environmental, and commercial objectives from the start.

Finally, Patrick Lynch, of Greenergy discussed the risks of fraud in Used Cooking Oil (UCO) supply chains, and explained the importance of continuous improvement, as required by RSB’s rigorous and independent third party certifcation, and technology partnerships to reduce risk; RSB and Greenergy will soon be collaborating on a project to look at the potential for blockchain to reduce fraud in UCO supply chains.

Inspired by these different examples of collaboration, our attendees split into groups over a long lunch to discuss different ways in which they as stakeholders can work with RSB on focus points such as regional initiatives, Japan, technology, biomaterials, and policy. The feedback from this lunch session was presented directly back to the group, with many excellent ideas and actions proposed to galvanise stakeholders in furthering their task of establishing a truly sustainable bioeconomy.

Closing the meeting, Laurel Harmon, Vice Chair of the Board, and Maiju Helin, observed that the two days of the annual meeting had provided inspiration, opportunities for collaboration, examples of the power of the diversity within the organisation, and fresh ideas to work on in 2020.

A vote of thanks was then given to all of the delegates, members, partners, and sponsors who joined us, along with a wrap-up of another valuable and informative RSB Annual Meeting.

The final announcement was that next year’s Annual Meeting will take place on October 28th and 29th 2020 in San Francisco, USA.


We look forward to seeing you there!


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