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Biomass or Biomess?: Examining sustainability schemes as way to address stakeholder concerns over the use of forest biomass

Sluka, Charlotte Ulrike LU (2012) In IIIEE Master thesis IMEN56 20121
The International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics
Abstract
Stakeholders are voicing concerns over the social and environmental impacts of components
of Europe’s renewable energy strategy that will significantly increase the region’s demand for
forest biomass. Energy companies must address these concerns if they are to manage
financial, reputational, regulatory and competitive risks. Sustainability schemes may help
reduce such risks by increasing the social trust and legitimacy in both the company and its
supply chains. This paper examines how the application of sustainability schemes can help
European utility companies address stakeholder concerns over the use of solid biomass in
large scale energy generation. Both primary and secondary research techniques are applied for
data collection... (More)
Stakeholders are voicing concerns over the social and environmental impacts of components
of Europe’s renewable energy strategy that will significantly increase the region’s demand for
forest biomass. Energy companies must address these concerns if they are to manage
financial, reputational, regulatory and competitive risks. Sustainability schemes may help
reduce such risks by increasing the social trust and legitimacy in both the company and its
supply chains. This paper examines how the application of sustainability schemes can help
European utility companies address stakeholder concerns over the use of solid biomass in
large scale energy generation. Both primary and secondary research techniques are applied for
data collection and elements of stakeholder theory are used to set out (i) who the most
relevant stakeholders are; (ii) what their principal concerns are; and (iii) how these concerns
may best be addressed through sustainability schemes. The research involved an in-depth
review of eleven sustainability schemes and a survey with responses from 140 biomass experts.
The sustainability schemes were benchmarked against the EU’s legislative requirements and
against stakeholder ratings in order to show which sustainability criteria are covered by which
scheme, and to what extent each scheme satisfies legal and stakeholder requirements.
The research results indicate that government representatives and NGOs are the most
significant stakeholders. They also showed that, while no scheme currently addresses all
concerns highlighted by these stakeholders, the criteria of the FSC, the PEFC, the ISCC and
the IWPB are comparatively comprehensive. Further, results indicate that, in practice, the
actual sustainability criteria may be less important for a scheme’s trustworthiness than the
name of the organisation leading the scheme. The work finds that NGO-led schemes
engender the highest level of trust by stakeholders and are thus most likely to satisfy their
demands. This comes despite equal or greater levels of stringency in a number of industry-led
schemes. Despite the current legitimacy concerns with their efforts, this research indicates that
utilities should continue their efforts; in particular under the IWPB certification system, as the
scheme provides a valuable opportunity to consolidate the proliferation of existing standards.
Regardless of which sustainability scheme is chosen, energy providers will benefit if they
clearly recognise the significant limitations of sustainability schemes. When devising mediumto
long-term strategies, they must proactively account for the risks that stem from a highly
volatile policy environment created by increasingly vehement stakeholder opposition to the
large-scale utilisation of biomass before locking themselves into substantive infrastructure
investments. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Sluka, Charlotte Ulrike LU
supervisor
organization
course
IMEN56 20121
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
Renewable energy, woody biomass, sustainability certification, stakeholder opinions, utilities
publication/series
IIIEE Master thesis
report number
2012:13
ISSN
1401-9191
language
English
id
3126087
date added to LUP
2012-10-04 14:43:55
date last changed
2012-10-04 14:43:55
@misc{3126087,
  abstract     = {Stakeholders are voicing concerns over the social and environmental impacts of components
of Europe’s renewable energy strategy that will significantly increase the region’s demand for
forest biomass. Energy companies must address these concerns if they are to manage
financial, reputational, regulatory and competitive risks. Sustainability schemes may help
reduce such risks by increasing the social trust and legitimacy in both the company and its
supply chains. This paper examines how the application of sustainability schemes can help
European utility companies address stakeholder concerns over the use of solid biomass in
large scale energy generation. Both primary and secondary research techniques are applied for
data collection and elements of stakeholder theory are used to set out (i) who the most
relevant stakeholders are; (ii) what their principal concerns are; and (iii) how these concerns
may best be addressed through sustainability schemes. The research involved an in-depth
review of eleven sustainability schemes and a survey with responses from 140 biomass experts.
The sustainability schemes were benchmarked against the EU’s legislative requirements and
against stakeholder ratings in order to show which sustainability criteria are covered by which
scheme, and to what extent each scheme satisfies legal and stakeholder requirements.
The research results indicate that government representatives and NGOs are the most
significant stakeholders. They also showed that, while no scheme currently addresses all
concerns highlighted by these stakeholders, the criteria of the FSC, the PEFC, the ISCC and
the IWPB are comparatively comprehensive. Further, results indicate that, in practice, the
actual sustainability criteria may be less important for a scheme’s trustworthiness than the
name of the organisation leading the scheme. The work finds that NGO-led schemes
engender the highest level of trust by stakeholders and are thus most likely to satisfy their
demands. This comes despite equal or greater levels of stringency in a number of industry-led
schemes. Despite the current legitimacy concerns with their efforts, this research indicates that
utilities should continue their efforts; in particular under the IWPB certification system, as the
scheme provides a valuable opportunity to consolidate the proliferation of existing standards.
Regardless of which sustainability scheme is chosen, energy providers will benefit if they
clearly recognise the significant limitations of sustainability schemes. When devising mediumto
long-term strategies, they must proactively account for the risks that stem from a highly
volatile policy environment created by increasingly vehement stakeholder opposition to the
large-scale utilisation of biomass before locking themselves into substantive infrastructure
investments.},
  author       = {Sluka, Charlotte Ulrike},
  issn         = {1401-9191},
  keyword      = {Renewable energy,woody biomass,sustainability certification,stakeholder opinions,utilities},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {IIIEE Master thesis},
  title        = {Biomass or Biomess?: Examining sustainability schemes as way to address stakeholder concerns over the use of forest biomass},
  year         = {2012},
}