Frequently asked questions

General

The standards were first launched five years ago. It is now time to take stock and review those standards in the light of changes in the external environment, such as legislation and regulations, advances in best practice, changes in scientific understanding and stakeholder views, for example, on carbon and biodiversity, and lessons learned through implementation. As we become aware of new markets for sustainable biomass we also want to make sure our standards are fit-for-purpose in new geographies.

Nothing is wrong with the current standards – they work well, remain robust and are recognised by all stakeholders, including the regulatory authorities in key geographies and markets. After five years it is good practice to review, revise and refresh.

As part of the development process, we are asking stakeholders to let us know what revisions they would like to see. The Working Groups will consider those suggestions, as well as changes in the external environment, such as legislation and regulations, advances in best practice, changes in scientific understanding and stakeholder views, lessons learned through implementation, and the requirements of new geographies, and make proposals for change. Those proposals will determine the extent of change.

It largely depends on the input of our stakeholders, and we need to take account of the uncertainties around COVID-19, but we are planning to have completed the process by the end of 2021.

Nothing for stakeholders and there is no charge for taking part in the process. The costs will be covered by SBP’s internal budget, which is funded by Certificate Holders’ fees.

As a stakeholder there are various ways to get involved in the process, including registering for the launch webinar, signing up to receive updates, joining our Stakeholder Advisor Group (SADG), participating in the public consultation later in the process, or simply emailing us your views, comments and suggestions.

If there are specific topics you would like to engage on, for example, forest carbon, biodiversity and/or social issues, then just let us know and we will make sure your views are heard.

Get involved

Process

SBP is a multi-stakeholder governed organisation. The key decision-making body in the Standards Development Process is the Standards Committee, whose membership is split equally between those representing civil society and those representing commercial interests. We are also aiming to achieve good representation of stakeholder interests in our Working Groups, which are required to reach decisions by consensus.

The Secretariat and Working Group Chairs will aim to ensure a range of interests, spanning civil society to commercial, are represented within the Working Groups themselves. We will also be engaging with stakeholder through specific activities, such as webinars and workshops, during the Standards Development Process.

The Secretariat and the Working Group Chairs will work with the Stakeholder Advisory Group to identify means of ensuring representation of all stakeholders within the Standards Development Process. That may include supporting individuals in becoming members of the Working Groups, engaging with stakeholders on specific topics through existing working groups or on a one-to-one basis, as well as alternative methods of engagement, such as webinars and workshops, invitations to give evidence as a technical expert and participating in Working Group meetings as an observer.

Topics for discussion

All topics across all the standards are up for discussion, including the definition of biomass sustainability, how it is evaluated, the method and means of data collection and communication throughout the supply chain, and the requirements on the End-user. This is an opportunity to take a thorough look at the standards and make sure they are fit-for-purpose and focused on providing a certification system for biomass and enabling climate goals to be met.

We are also open to comments on any aspect of what we do.

Forest carbon is already covered in our standards. However, we are aware that the understanding around the topic continues to develop and that there is wide divergence of views on how forest carbon should be evaluated in determining the sustainability of biomass from forests. We want to hear your views on the topic so that we can ensure the next version of our standards provides a robust, credible and auditable way of determining that biomass is sustainable. We do expect a lot of discussion on the topic and welcome your input.

The thinking around biodiversity has developed a lot in the last five years and there is a growing awareness of the importance of loss of biodiversity. We aim to keep abreast of those developments and review and update the biodiversity elements of our standards with the help of input from our stakeholders.

We will be exploring social safeguards, such as health and safety, at the point of biomass production and along the supply chain. Also, as the SBP certification system is implemented in new geographies, we may need to take account of new social concepts. We welcome input on the topic of social safeguards.

Working Group A will review intended outcomes and impacts and whether additional requirements are needed. This could include introducing a mechanism for compliance with the ILO core conventions.

The existing standards already have requirements related to land rights. As part of the Standards Development Process, Working Group A will look at the intended outcomes and impacts of the standards and whether additional requirements and/or means of verification are required.

Yes, the SDGs are part of the landscape that informs the development of our standards. We have identified those SDGs that appear to be of most relevance, see Terms of Reference and Sustainability Certification Landscape. The Working Groups will consider those and the remaining SDGs as part of the Standards Development Process.

Our starting points are ISEAL and ISO. The ISEAL codes of good practice, in particular the standard-setting code, are informing our work. Alongside a large number of certification systems, we also make use of internationally recognised standards, for example, from ISO (International Standards Organisation), which form the basis of our requirements for Certification Bodies.

In terms of process, we believe our aim to engage fully with our wide-ranging stakeholders and develop our standards through multi-stakeholder Working Groups, with input from technical experts, constitutes best practice.

SBP’s purpose is to enable climate goals to be met, so that will be the driving force for change. The outcome will be a suite of standards with requirements that are clear to all stakeholders, including those who are implementing them, those who are certifying against them and those who take an interest in them.

SBP aims to deliver on its purpose of enabling climate goals to be met.  Ensuring that SBP-certified biomass continues to be compliant with the requirements of the markets it serves now and in the future is a part of that.

Preliminary feedback from stakeholders is that we should review the regional approach to certification and particularly in the context of ensuring that SBP delivers on its purpose.

Yes, we will be reviewing our current acceptance of FSC and PEFC certification schemes.

Yes, we will be considering recognition of other certification schemes that we don’t currently recognise, including RSB, GGL and ISCC.

Certificate Holders

No, Certificate Holders will not have to be re-certified*, but they will need to transition to the new requirements once the revised standards are approved and published if they wish to retain SBP certification. A transition period will be agreed as part of the standards development work.

*Where certificates are coming to the end of their five year validity, then Certificate Holders will need to be re-certified.

The transition period will be determined during the standards development work in agreement with stakeholders, including Certificate Holders and Certification Bodies.

Our purpose is to ensure that good biomass continues to contribute to meeting climate goals and that the production of and demand for good biomass can be met. We need to ensure that our certification system remains relevant to the markets it serves.

The decision to supply and use SBP-certified biomass is a commercial decision and one that is taken by the Certificate Holders themselves.

In terms of the Certificate Holder fees paid to SBP, it is not anticipated that there will be any additional costs as a consequence of the standards development work; as now the fees will continue to be reviewed annually by the Board.

In terms of other costs to Certificate Holders, that will depend on their operations and the associated costs for implementing the requirements.

Certification Bodies

The requirements will likely change for Certification Bodies, but the extent to which they do will be determined by the standards development work.

Certification Bodies will need to train their auditors to ensure they have a full understanding of the new certification requirements. In addition, Certification Bodies will need to ensure that they have adequate resources to conduct audits against the new standards.

Auditors will need to be trained by their respective Certification Bodies. Although,  SBP plans to support capacity building.

Outcomes

In parallel to developing our standards, we are also developing our monitoring and evaluation process, which will include defining the impacts that we would like to see our standards having in the market place. Through monitoring and evaluating those impacts we will be able to determine their effectiveness.