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 and the voluntary schemes have to adjust the certification approaches to meet the new requirements.

To ensure a smooth transition to the new sustainability framework, the recognition process of voluntary schemes should start before the transposition deadline. Interested voluntary schemes are invited to apply for recognition by the Commission under the new sustainability framework. More information about the recognition process can be found in the call for interest and the updated assessment protocol.

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.

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.