A review of social sustainability considerations among EU-approved voluntary schemes for biofuels, with implications for rural livelihoods

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The rapid expansion of biofuel production and consumption has raised concerns over the social and environmental sustainability of biofuel feedstock production, processing and trade. The European Union (EU) has thus balanced its commitment to biofuels as one option for meeting its renewable energy targets with sustainability criteria for economic operators supplying biofuels to member states. Seven voluntary ‘‘EU sustainability schemes'' were approved in July, 2011 as a means to verify compliance. While mandated sustainability criteria have a strong environmental focus, a number of these voluntary schemes have social sustainability as a significant component of the requirements put forward for achieving certification. As several of these voluntary schemes are incipient, thereby limiting evidence on their effectiveness in practice, this analysis is based on a comparative analysis of the substantive content or ‘scope' of these schemes and the likely procedural effectiveness of the same. Findings show that while some schemes have considerable coverage of social sustainability concerns, poor coverage of some critical issues, the presence of schemes lacking any social sustainability requirements, and gaps in procedural rules are likely to undermine the likelihood that social sustainability is achieved through these schemes or the EU sustainability policies lending credibility to them.

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