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RSB celebrates Earth Day with deep-dive into sustainability framework

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” — Khalil Gibran

Earth Day is a day to celebrate the beautiful world we live in and recognise the responsibility we have to take care of it – and each other. At RSB, this commitment is guided by our sustainability framework. So this year, to celebrate Earth Day, we took the opportunity to provide you with some extra insight into the values and motivations that underpin our sustainability framework and Standard.

Developed by our multi-stakeholder membership community, the 12 Principles that form the basis of the RSB Standard cover social, environmental and legal/management issues to provide a holistic sustainability framework that is widely acknowledged as the most credible and robust approach for the bio-based and circular economy. Throughout the month of April, we shared stories and case studies to showcase how these Principles work in practice. Let’s recap…  


Principle 1: “Operations follow all applicable laws and regulations”.

In a world plagued with environmental crimes and social injustice, it’s imperative to us that we only work with organisations that respect the rule of law and legal frameworks that strive for just and sustainable transition to a net positive world.


Principle 2: “Sustainable operations are planned, implemented and continuously improved through an open, transparent and consultative impact assessment and management process and an economic viability analysis”.

This includes looking at ourselves as an organisation. That the RSB Principles & Criteria remain the most robust and credible approach for the sustainable transition to a bio-based and circular economy is vital. In September 2021, we launched a revision process to ensure they continue to support producers, brands and businesses to align their ambitions with sustainable action. This process is ongoing and RSB’s stakeholders can look forward to the next stage of the consultation during 2022.


Principle 3: “Biofuels contribute to climate change mitigation by significantly reducing life-cycle GHG emissions as compared to fossil fuels”.

The IPCC’s latest climate report, which looks at the impacts of climate change on people, highlights how limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector – involving a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels such as hydrogen. RSB’s online GHG calculator tool, which is available for free to RSB participating operators and members, enables you to calculate the supply chain GHG emissions of a fuel or material and see whether you meet the RSB minimum GHG reduction threshold. This enables organisations to understand the impact of their operations, as well as climate benefits of their bio-based and circular solutions, so they can not only report on them, but also learn where to improve.


Principle 4: “Operations do not violate human rights or labour rights, and promote decent work and the wellbeing of workers”.

RSB is proud to work with organisations like Solidaridad Network Southern Africa, Project Gaia and ICENECDEV that advocate for human and labour rights across the supply chain and bring their expertise to our multi-stakeholder membership community to help ensure that the transition to a bio-based and circular economy is both just and sustainable.


Principle 5: “In regions of poverty, operations contribute to the social and economic development of local, rural and indigenous people and communities”.

For example, smallholder farmers certified to RSB in Guariba, Brazil can now access new, lower interest credit to support their businesses thanks to a new initiative from RSB certified operator Socicana — a sugarcane farmers’ association in Guariba.   Principle 6: “Operations ensure the human right to adequate food and improve food security in food insecure regions.”


Principle 6: “Operations ensure the human right to adequate food and improve food security in food insecure regions.”

Food security exists when “all people, at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Recognising the link between food security and sustainable development, RSB’s food security guidelines calls for operators to ensure that they do not have a negative impact on food security in their region, and that they enhance food security to directly affected households in their locality.


Principle 7: “Operations avoid negative impacts on biodiversity, ecosystems and conservation values.”

It is essential that growth of the circular and bio-based economy is contained within our planetary boundaries. The bioeconomy is already estimated to be worth £1.7 trillion in annual turnover in the EU alone, and ensuring that it’s growth is coupled with a sustainability approach that supports and enhances biodiversity is absolutely vital. As a member of the BusinessForNature Coalition, we work recognise the role of business in co-leading the transformation towards an equitable, nature-positive and carbon-neutral world.


Principle 8: “Operations implement practices that seek to reverse soil degradation and/or maintain soil health.”

A true embodiment of this principle are RSB members Nuseed. For the people who grow Nuseed Carinata as a cover crop, the benefit comes from improved soil health and reduced erosion – and a new income for agricultural communities. What’s more, the crop’s significant biomass and deep roots efficiently remove greenhouse gases from the air, sequestering it into the soil.


Principle 9: “Operations maintain or enhance the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater resources, and respect prior formal or customary water rights.”

Our approach to water is widely recognised as the most robust by WWF Germany, who acknowledged RSB as having best practice among sustainability standards for water stewardship in agricultural supply chains, among others.


Principle 10: “Air pollution shall be minimised along the whole supply chain.”

This is done through an air management plan, implementing best available technology – and where possible – eliminating open-air burning of residues, wastes or by-products, or open-air burning to clear land. RSB membership can be the first step to reducing air pollutions from your organisation’s operations, and last year, Heineken joined the RSB community to do exactly that. “At HEINEKEN, we believe that the bioeconomy can only be sustainable if multiple environmental aspects are taken into account in the selection of biomaterials. We are happy to join RSB to ensure that the biomaterials used in our decarbonisation strategy are complying with the strictest environmental guidelines and look forward to collaborating with RSB members” said Nicolas Clerget, HEINEKEN Net Zero Champion.


Principle 11: “The use of technologies shall seek to maximise production efficiency and social and environmental performance, and minimise the risk of damages to the environment and people.”

There is no simple fix to our global climate crisis – although technology has the potential to support powerful solutions. An incredible example of this is the work of RSB Members BioLedger, with whom we demonstrated the feasibility of a blockchain-based database solution for the European biofuels supply chain.


Principle 12: “Operations shall respect land rights and land use rights.”

This especially important when working with indigenous people, who comprise less than 5% of the world’s population, but protect 80% of global biodiversity. RSB has worked with partners to ensure that the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, which is part of international human rights law, is practiced in member operations that overlap with indigenous people’s land rights. Social justice and equality are key to sustainability.  


To have a look at out Twitter thread of this campaign, take a look here.

To have a closer look at the criteria that describe the conditions to be met to achieve these Principles, take a look here.

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