“There is a huge interest in the circular economy at the moment. In relation to the circular economy, the chemicals sector is really pressing ahead with this agenda.”
REDCert was founded in 2010 by leading associations and organisations of the German agricultural and biofuel sectors. By creating the scheme, the economic groups affected assumed joint responsibility for actively promoting certified sustainability of biofuels and liquid biomass. Today, it has expanded into new markets.
Here, Liz Gyekye, deputy editor for Bio Market Insights, catches up with managing director Peter Jürgens to find out more.
Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind REDCert?
PJ: Today, REDCert has more than 1,300 scheme participants from 27 countries, making it one of the leading certification schemes for sustainable biomass, bioliquids and biofuels in Germany and Europe. The European Commission reaccredited the REDcert-EU scheme in August 2017.
In addition to this, since 2015, REDCert2 has also been a certification scheme for sustainable agricultural raw materials which are processed for use as food or animal feed as well as biomass used for material purposes. The REDCert2 scheme is based on the REDcert-EU certification scheme which has successfully been in place for five years and was given a positive rating by the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI Gold level). REDCert2 can be used for the different phases of raw materials production and gathering, trade and processing.
In 2018, we entered into a new market looking at material use in the chemicals sector. This took us around two years to develop. In fact, two years ago we got in touch with a big player in the chemicals market who was trying to find a sustainability certification scheme for their business. This included complex production structures and processes. It also included an appropriate approach for biomass balancing.
Subsequently, along with this big player in the chemicals sector and another certification body, we developed a standard for a “biomass balance approach”. This approach is where products made from renewable resources exhibit the same performance as their counterparts made from fossil feedstock. Due to the latter, we decided to expand our REDCert2 scheme to the chemicals sector. In doing so, we have incorporated a balancing standard called CMS71 into the REDCert2 scheme.
LG: Before working as managing director of REDCert what did you do?
PJ: I have been working in the area of certification schemes since the mid-90s. As well as taking charge of the REDCert scheme, I am also responsible for a company called ORGAINVENT, which was founded in 1997. The company operates a certification scheme for the origins and traceability of beef. This company was formed in the wake of the BSE scandal. EU legislation was modified in a way that market operators had to label the origin of the beef that they handled and assure traceability for that. They could do this by using a voluntary certification scheme like ORGAINVENT had developed. The experience we gained from here was transferred to the biofuels sector. For instance, having a private company and a scheme operator involved, and helping to manage this scheme gave us a broad knowledge to transfer this on to our REDCert scheme. That’s why REDCert is supported by ORGAINVENT.
Elsewhere, I also help to manage SeedGuard – a voluntary system that supports quality assurance within seed treatment sites of the seed industry. The certification system was founded in 2011 by various associations from within the industry. The certification focuses on encouraging the environmentally-friendly and safe treatment of seeds. The criteria and requirements that a certified company must meet are defined by the SeedGuard committee. Recognised and accredited certification bodies are required in order to implement the system.
The push for an improvement in environmental and health safety in the handling of seeds came about in particular in 2008 at the time of the destruction of thousands of bee colonies, which were ruined by certain insecticides.
LG: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing REDcert?
PJ: The main challenge was to develop this new standard for our REDCert2 scheme to make it ready for use in the market. We sent out our first certification in December 2018 to BASF (@BASF). Since then, we have received a couple of queries from industry stakeholders. This shows that we are on the right track. We find that the chemicals sector is moving fast on sustainability certification. There is a huge interest in the circular economy at the moment. In relation to the circular economy, the chemicals sector is really pressing ahead with this agenda. “Chemcycling” is a big key to this, where waste is used as a valued feedstock for the chemicals business. Therefore, there is a big focus on using renewables instead of fossil sources and using recycled material instead of virgin fossil material.
The feedstocks used for biochemicals are more or less the same like fossil fuel-based chemicals. For instance, take bio-methane instead of natural gas. The beginning of the chain is always the same.
LG: What’s coming up next for your company?
PJ: First, the expansion of the material use area within the chemicals sector. Second, preparing the REDCert scheme for part two of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001.
LG: What advice would you give to someone else looking to launch their own company/product in this space?
PJ: They should assess what is already happening in this space. They should also assess what their prime purpose is. Is it to gain sustainability certification just for marketing purposes? Is it just to comply with legal obligations or is it customer needs? Before looking at certifications, one should find out what one’s main aims are.
LG: What’s your favourite sustainable/bio-based product?
PJ: Each product is my favourite if it can demonstrate a positive impact on the climate or resource savings. For example, renewable products or recycling products. Essentially, we need a variety of solutions to solve climate change not just one.
Peter Jürgens will be speaking at the World Bio Markets Conference, the leading assembly for the bio-based economy, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
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