Voluntary schemes

Voluntary schemes help to ensure that biofuels are sustainably produced by verifying that they comply with the EU sustainability criteria. As such, the schemes check that:

  • production of biofuel feedstock does not take place on land with high biodiversity
  • land with a high amount of carbon has not been converted for biofuel feedstock production
  • biofuel production leads to sufficient greenhouse gas emissions savings

Several schemes also take into account additional sustainability aspects such as soil, water, air protection and social criteria. For the certification process, an external auditor verifies the whole production chain from the farmer growing the feedstock to the biofuel producer or trader.

While the schemes are run privately, the European Commission can recognise  them as valid.

Voluntary schemes for the period after 2020

Under the recast Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001, the EU sustainability criteria are extended to cover biomass for heating and cooling and power generation. Member States are required to transpose the new rules by 30 June 2021.

The Commission plans to adopt a number of regulations to provide guidance on the implementation of the new sustainability criteria and to update the EU rules for voluntary schemes. Existing voluntary schemes recognized by the Commission will be required to adjust their certification approaches to the new rules.

The Commission plans to start the process of recognition of the voluntary schemes for covering the revised sustainability criteria during the first half of 2020. Further updates and information on the process will follow.

Recognition criteria

For a scheme to be recognised by the European Commission, it must fulfil criteria such as:

  • feedstock producers comply with the sustainability criteria
  • information on the sustainability characteristics can be traced to the origin of the feedstock
  • all information is well documented
  • companies are audited before they start to participate in the scheme and retroactive audits take place regularly
  • the auditors have both the generic and specific auditing skills needed with regards to the scheme's criteria

Recognition for a voluntary scheme can last for a period of five years.

List of approved voluntary schemes

The European Commission recognises a number of voluntary schemes that demonstrate compliance with the sustainability criteria for biofuels. Schemes may adopt their verification procedures but must notify changes that might be relevant to the Commission, such as changes in auditing procedures. The Commission assesses the changes to establish whether the schemes still adequately cover the sustainability criteria. The scheme documents on this web site, however, are not updated in order to keep a reference to the status of the schemes at the time of their recognition; updated documents are available on the scheme websites linked below.

1. ISCC (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification)

2. Bonsucro EU

3. RTRS EU RED (Round Table on Responsible Soy EU RED)

4. RSB EU RED (Roundtable of Sustainable Biofuels EU RED)

5. 2BSvs (Biomass Biofuels voluntary scheme)

6. Red Tractor (Red Tractor Farm Assurance Combinable Crops & Sugar Beet Scheme)

7. SQC (Scottish Quality Farm Assured Combinable Crops (SQC) scheme)

8. Red Cert

9. Better Biomass

10. RSPO RED (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil RED)

11. KZR INIG System

12. Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops

13. Universal Feed Assurance Scheme

14. U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol EU (SSAP EU)

List of approved national schemes

The European Commission also recognises national biofuel sustainability schemes that have been notified to the Commission by EU governments.

Austrian Agricultural Certification Scheme