Better than Before: SBP Launches Revised Standards

SBP has today launched its revised sourcing Standards for woody biomass. The revised Standards underpin the SBP promise of good biomass. They require that SBP-certified biomass is deforestation-free, that biodiversity is maintained or enhanced through protecting key species, habitats and ecosystems, that water quality and soil quality are maintained or enhanced, that carbon stocks are stable or increasing, and that workers and their rights, local communities, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples are protected.

In addition, the EU REDII requirements will be mandatory for all Certificate Holders certified against the revised Standards.

Carsten Huljus, Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Reviewing and revising our Standards has been another milestone in the development of SBP.

“At the outset our goal was to achieve multi-stakeholder consensus on how to improve and advance our certification scheme, whilst maintaining relevance and effectiveness, and importantly, ensuring future fitness.

“We have achieved that with a set of Standards that are better than before, and we are now focused on their successful roll-out.

“My sincere thanks to all who contributed along the way”.

The Standards Development Process

The launch of the revised Standards marks the culmination of the Standards Development Process that we and our stakeholders formally embarked upon in 2020, five years since our Standards were first published.

Continuous improvement and relevance are central to our thinking and a key aspect of the review and revision process was to fully consider, amongst other things, changes in market regulations, advances in best practice, and increased knowledge of key issues, including forest carbon, biodiversity and social impact.

The Process encouraged full stakeholder participation, with comprehensive Working Group arrangements to delve into the detail and make recommendations to improve and advance the requirements for legal and sustainable sourcing of feedstock for biomass production.

The full suite of six Standards was subject to three public consultations, and pilot testing in key producer regions across a representative sample of small and large producers of pellets and chips.

Our Technical Committee and Standards Committee conscientiously oversaw the Process, scrutinising the recommendations throughout. Ultimately, in March 2023, following approval by the Standards Committee our Board endorsed the revisions.

Key improvements

Our revised Standards have been improved and advanced in a number of areas, including:

  • Structural, streamlining our requirements to aid implementation and clarity, with a focus on outputs.
  • Beyond regulatory compliance, through indicators in the areas of biodiversity, land conversion, forest carbon stock, cascading use, training, grievance handling and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).
  • Environmental, strengthened requirements to identify threats to ecosystems, and to maintain or enhance key species, habitats, ecosystems and areas of high conservation value; clarifying those no-go areas of land that cannot be changed or converted; regeneration of forested land; and banning of harmful agrochemicals.
  • Forest carbon, a new principle, including land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions requirements; driving positive impact through the requirement for forest carbon to be stable or increasing; no harvesting in low productivity or difficult to regenerate areas, nor in areas combining high conservation values and high carbon stocks; and the introduction of the cascading use principle.
  • Social, new and enhanced social requirements fighting discrimination through strengthening the protection of workers and their rights; and requirements to identify and avoid negative impacts in local communities, protect cultural heritage sites and the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Identifying and managing sourcing risks, a major overhaul delivering greater clarity in how to develop, implement and manage risk assessments, and the introduction of more objective requirements for auditors when evaluating compliance; a new concept of benchmarked and recognised schemes to manage risks in the Supply Base; and the need for requirement for stakeholder consultation.
  • SBP-specific, increased relevance of the requirements for Certification Bodies and the introduction of our own Chain of Custody system; strengthened requirements around auditor competence; minor and major non-conformity definitions aligned with best practice; and clear rules on, amongst other things, annual surveillance audits, audit timelines, management systems and internal audits, record keeping, stakeholder consultations, health and safety, and anti-corruption.
  • Data focused, significant improvements to the requirements around identifying volumes of biomass and communication of data; and enabling the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions along the supply chain.

A fuller description of the improvements and advancements is available here.

Roll-out of SBP Standards v2.0

All documents come into effect on 10 August 2023, and  existing Certificate Holders have a period of 15 months from the effective date during which to transition to the revised Standards. The transition period will end on 9 November 2024, at which time SBP Standards v1.0 will be retired.

The normative documents, comprising the six SBP Standards, Glossary of Terms and Definitions, and Instruction Documents are available on our website here. For the first time we have published Guidance Documents to accompany Standards 1, 2 and 4, and they are available on our website here.

SBP-endorsed Regional Risk Assessments (RRAs) are currently being revised, and new RRAs developed, to align with the revised Standards. Keep up-to-date with the status of the revisions and developments here (scroll down).

SBP Directorate Change

Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group, has with effect from 16 March 2023 stepped down from his role as a board member of the Sustainable Biomass Program. Mr. Gardiner has served in this position in a personal capacity since January 2019 and we thank him for his valuable contribution to our organisation. We will look to filling his seat over the coming months and will provide an update in due course.

SBP Revised Standards (v2) Approved

SBP has today announced that following approval by the Standards Committee, the Board has formally endorsed the revised SBP Standards (v2).

Approval of the revised Standards concludes the Standards Development Process that was launched in May 2020. Amounting to a significant effort, the Process was designed to encourage and realise a wide-ranging review and, where necessary, revision of the Standards with full stakeholder participation.

Advances in the understanding of sustainability issues, market requirements and international best practice for effective and credible certification schemes were key considerations during the review and revision.

Our revised Standards underpin our promise of good biomass, requiring that SBP-certified biomass is deforestation-free, that biodiversity is maintained or enhanced through protecting key species, habitats and ecosystems, that water quality and soil quality are maintained or enhanced, and that carbon stocks are stable or increasing.

Martin Junginger and Mike Williams, Co-Chairs of the Standards Committee, commented: “With responsibility for the approval recommendation, we devised guiding principles for the review and revision, and evaluation criteria against which to test the revised Standards. With equal representation of civil society and commercial interests we were able to bring balance to the Standards Committee’s decision-making. We are confident that a strengthened and credible set of Standards has been delivered, serving the interests of SBP’s wide-ranging stakeholders”.

In the early stages of the Process, three multi-stakeholder Working Groups and various topic-specific Sub-groups delved into the detail of the Standards and made proposals and recommendations for revision. Public consultations and pilot testing supplemented development of a suite of draft Standards that were then subject to intense scrutiny by the Technical Committee and Standards Committee.

Carsten Huljus, Chief Executive Officer, commented: “We have called upon our many and varied stakeholders throughout the review and revision, amassing several thousands of stakeholder hours. I am extremely grateful to all those who have contributed to version 2 of our Standards. What we now have is better than before and provides a solid foundation for future growth”.

The next steps are shown in the timeline below. The pre-release version of the approved Standards is available at:



The pre-release version of the Standards has been released to facilitate the development of new, and the revision of existing, Regional Risk Assessments, and for submission to regulatory authorities to maintain our current approvals.

Please note that the ‘Pre-release publication date’ does not start the clock as far as the ‘Effective date’ and ‘Retirement of SBP Standards (v1)’ are concerned. The ‘Publication date’ (see timeline) marks the formal publication of our revised Standards and is the key anchor date for the steps that follow.

SBP Response to NGO Briefing Paper, ‘Sustainable Biomass Program: Certifying paperwork without looking at the forest’

The recently published NGO briefing paper, ‘Sustainable Biomass Program: Certifying paperwork without looking at the forest’, alleges that the Dutch authorities’ decision to deem all SBP-certified wood pellets as meeting national sustainability and greenhouse gas standards is unjustified.

SBP welcomes constructive criticism of its certification scheme, which is used to improve its Standards, processes and procedures. SBP is also interested in any feedback regarding its Certification Bodies and Certificate Holders. Allegations of non-compliance are taken seriously and, in the first instance, are drawn to the attention of the relevant Certification Body.

SBP is approved under the Dutch SDE+ subsidy regime, which has specific biomass sustainability requirements and a comprehensive approval mechanism that together should give stakeholders confidence in the decision to deem SBP-certified biomass as SDE+ compliant.

To become SBP-certified, a Biomass Producer (or Trader or End-user) must comply with the SBP Standards. If an SBP-certified Biomass Producer wishes to sell biomass into the Dutch biomass market then it must comply with additional SDE+ requirements specific to the Dutch biomass market. SBP has developed and implemented two additional Instruction Documents to address the specific nature of the SDE+ requirements.

When external bodies compare the SBP Standards with the SDE+ requirements, they too must look at the SDE+ Instruction Documents. The NGO briefing does not appear to have taken those additional documents into consideration.

SBP has evaluated the allegations made in the NGO briefing and finds them to be unjustified. The NGO briefing claims to identify four key problems with SBP, each are addressed below.

  • Lack of external auditing of forest management linked to pellet production

The SBP scheme requires independent, credible auditing of supply chains or verification of claims made by Biomass Producers. SBP Standard 3 establishes a protocol for exactly that. The rules are derived from ISO17065 and ISO19011 – internationally recognised standards for auditing that are applied across many sectors globally. Further, SBP is a community member of ISEAL and SBP Standard 3 is based on the ISEAL Assurance Code of Good Practice.

SBP has clear and proportionate auditing requirements in place. SBP-certified Biomass Producers must undergo an annual audit by an independent Certification Body. SBP operates a risk-based approach, which is a well-known and accepted approach for certification schemes. Independent auditors verify how Biomass Producers manage the specified risks within their supply base, which will entail field visits.

It is important to note that SBP is a sourcing standard, it is not a forest management standard. SBP recognises feedstock accompanied with an FSC, PEFC or PEFC-recognised scheme claim as SBP-compliant.

  • Lack of appropriate scrutiny of claims made by pellet producers and information sources provided by them

The SBP certification scheme requires appropriate scrutiny of claims made by Biomass Producers and information sources provided by them. There are, in fact, four levels of scrutiny:

  1. Independent Certification Bodies – whose auditors must have the requisite skills and training to undertake audits of SBP Certificate Holders. The role of an auditor is to precisely verify the claims made by Biomass Producers and information sources provided by them;
  2. Stakeholder consultation – SBP requires that stakeholders are consulted both by Certificate Holders and Certification Bodies;
  3. Peer review – SBP requires that the findings of the auditors are peer-reviewed by an independent expert; and
  4. Independent accreditation body – whose role is to assess the Certification Bodies through witness assessments of the audits undertaken by the Certification Bodies.
  • Inconsistent interpretation of evidence by certifiers

SBP-endorsed Regional Risk Assessments (RRAs) cover an entire geographic region or country and are a key part of SBP’s focus on identifying and mitigating risks associated with sourcing feedstock. Each country has its own legal framework and resources to support compliance with the SBP requirements, and they naturally vary from country to country. It would be highly unlikely for all countries’ risks to be rated the same and, therefore, it is not unusual to see risk ratings of the same indicators differ across borders. For that reason, the suggestion that RRAs for two different countries contradict each other cannot be attributed to inconsistent interpretation.

  • SBP indicators, i.e., guidelines for interpreting criteria, are not compatible with SDE++ criteria

The Dutch authorities continually monitor SBP’s activities. SBP is obliged to provide the authorities with updates made to any of the scheme’s documentation for their evaluation, whether Standards, SDE+ Instruction Documents, guidance, or interpretations. Maintaining the approval of its certification scheme under SDE+ is important to SBP and its Certificate Holders, and SBP works hard to assure compliance with the SDE+ requirements.

Note: SBP is compliant with SDE+ requirements (renewable energy production). SBP has not sought approval under SDE++, which supports other technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In conclusion, SBP is a credible and robust certification scheme for woody biomass. It is recognised by leading regulatory regimes, aligned with best practice for sustainability sourcing standards, and incorporates thorough, independent scrutiny of all practices and decisions.

SBP would welcome the opportunity to engage with the authors to discuss the topics in more detail.

SBP Publishes Response to Public Consultation on Revised SBP Standards

The Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) has today published its response to the October 2022 public consultation on the revised SBP Standards.

In the response document, each of the comments received during the public consultation is presented along with SBP’s response summarising how the comments have been dealt with in the development final draft of the Standards.