Sustainability is a boundary concept which is and has been used in the last decade more and more in political and economic contexts. The biofuel and agriculture sustainability debate is probably the best example for this. Challenged by NGOs and scientists on the future of the planet, policy makers in Europe and the US have on the one hand introduced economic incentives and even mandated biofuel use and certain agricultural practices, but also introduced sustainability requirements and have therefore operationalized the sustainability concept into measurable criteria. At the same time, volunteer labelling schemes have been developed, often as multistakeholder initiatives by industry together with NGOs to address sustainability demands from NGOs, consumers and policy makers. For biofuels, the EU with its Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) are impacting producers worldwide. At the same time, volunteer labels such as Bonsucro for sugarcane ethanol and sugar production, organic certification , Fairtrade and other food and agricultural production labels are gaining ground. Political and economic operationalization and communication of sustainability can have significant impacts on farmers and local communities involved in the food and biofuel production chain, the realized sustainability and our common future. The PhD project on which this paper is based seeks to advance our understanding of sustainability and its “DNA”/core concepts through studying the attitudes and criteria put in place relating to the sustainability of food and biomass products. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, this PhD project identifies and explores different concepts and priorities within industry, in certification schemes and by consumers. The results of qualitative focus groups and interviews with stakeholders and a quantitative study in the Netherlands and in Brazil with 1000 consumers are showing that sustainability is more rooted and used in an environmental context, while social and economic criteria play a smaller role. Differences and commonalities between consumers and industry and planetary boundaries and sustainability realities will be explored. What does sustainability mean in the context of food and biofuel production for the different stakeholders? What should the ideal sustainability label for food and biomass be like?

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Qualitative and quantitative analysis of public opinions and criteria for sustainable bioproducts

Sebastian Olényi   Delft University Of Technology, Netherlands

Patricia Osseweijer   Delft University Of Technology, Netherlands

Sustainability is a boundary concept which is and has been used in the last decade more and more in political and economic contexts. The biofuel and agriculture sustainability debate is probably the best example for this. Challenged by NGOs and scientists on the future of the planet, policy makers in Europe and the US have on the one hand introduced economic incentives and even mandated biofuel use and certain agricultural practices, but also introduced sustainability requirements and have therefore operationalized the sustainability concept into measurable criteria. At the same time, volunteer labelling schemes have been developed, often as multistakeholder initiatives by industry together with NGOs to address sustainability demands from NGOs, consumers and policy makers. For biofuels, the EU with its Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) are impacting producers worldwide. At the same time, volunteer labels such as Bonsucro for sugarcane ethanol and sugar production, organic certification , Fairtrade and other food and agricultural production labels are gaining ground. Political and economic operationalization and communication of sustainability can have significant impacts on farmers and local communities involved in the food and biofuel production chain, the realized sustainability and our common future. The PhD project on which this paper is based seeks to advance our understanding of sustainability and its “DNA”/core concepts through studying the attitudes and criteria put in place relating to the sustainability of food and biomass products. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, this PhD project identifies and explores different concepts and priorities within industry, in certification schemes and by consumers. The results of qualitative focus groups and interviews with stakeholders and a quantitative study in the Netherlands and in Brazil with 1000 consumers are showing that sustainability is more rooted and used in an environmental context, while social and economic criteria play a smaller role. Differences and commonalities between consumers and industry and planetary boundaries and sustainability realities will be explored. What does sustainability mean in the context of food and biofuel production for the different stakeholders? What should the ideal sustainability label for food and biomass be like?

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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