ISCC System Basics

The generation of energy from biomass has recently often been associated with land-use competition, increasing commodity prices and the deforestation of rainforest. So far, the international markets for agricultural products and bioenergy have not come up with a label for food, liquid biomass or biofuel from sustainable production. Thus, consumers do not have the possibility to choose between sustainable and non-sustainable products. A product's success factor is its price, not its quality. The market does not offer incentives for farmers and bioenergy producers that produce in a sustainable way.

To overcome this deficit, policy has launched initiatives to help to differentiate biomass for energy production. This shall avoid unwanted ecological and social side effects of the extending biomass production in various regions of the world. Certification is an instrument helping to distinguish sustainable products from non-sustainable ones in the market. Customers can thus more easily opt for sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction. Hence, certification supports responsible farming.

ISCC is such a certification system allowing to differentiate sustainable products from non-sustainable ones including the assignment of greenhouse gas emissions to different stages of the value chain.

The Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung - BLE) recognized ISCC furthermore as an eligible certification system according to the 36th BImSchV (Federal Immision Control Act). The 36th BImSchV implements rules for double-counting of biofuels towards the German biofuel quota. A double-counting of biofuels towards the biofules quota is possible if the biofuels are physically produced from eligible wastes or resides (e.g. used cooking oil).

Separate System Documents for each ISCC system 

In order to meet the different requirements of each system, ISCC has developed separate system documents for each single system: ISCC DE, ISCC DE 36th BImschV, ISCC EU ISCC DE 36th BImSchVund ISCC PLUS.

Some basic ISCC documents and their content are presented below:

ISCC 202 (DE, EU, PLUS): Sustainability Requirements

In the context of a sustainable development, the use of biomass can only be justified if a sustainable, environmentally and socially sound production of the biomass is ensured.

Thus, the protection of certain areas and the compliance with several environmental and social standards are indispensable.

This standard for sustainable production comprises six principles with their respective criteria and does not only aim at the prevention of ecological shortcomings, but also at the safekeeping of adequate working conditions and the protection of health of the employees on farms. The criteria are defined as "major musts" and "minor musts" (see annex 1). For a successful audit, all "major musts" have to be complied with. At the same time, 60% of the minor musts have to be fulfilled.

In special cases, National or Regional Initiatives (National or Regional Technical Working Groups) can adapt the international ISCC standards to local conditions by the means of a specification of the standard. These working groups shall consider the regulations in the documents ISCC 102 National and Regional Initiatives.

ISCC 203 (DE, EU, PLUS): Requirements for Traceability

According to ISO, the term traceability describes the possibility to trace production, use or location of an element of the supply chain. For final products, this can cover the origin of materials and parts as well as the production history. Traceability does not only cover the basic requirements that products can be traced forth and back throughout the value chain from their origin to the point of final delivery but also the possibility to specify what they are made from and how they have been processed.

ISCC 204 (DE, EU, PLUS): Mass balance calculation methodology

This document describes the basic elements which have to be considered for the requirements for mass balance calculation.

ISCC 205 (DE; EU; PLUS): GHG Emissions Calculation Methodology

The goal of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions calculation is the calculation and verification of GHG emissions along the value chain. This includes emissions from biomass production, conversion processes, warehouses and transport.

Information about the generated GHG emissions and about the GHG abatement in comparison to the use of fossil energy is one element of the data that is necessary for the traceability of sustainable biomass.

Members of the value chain that have gone through a successful audit can be assigned an individual GHG emissions value in connection with the sustainability and chain of custody audit. The individual GHG value is expressed in GHG emissions per ton of product. This information can be provided to their customers along with the product.

ISCC 207 (DE, EU, PLUS): Risk Management

In order to fulfil the requirements of the certification system with a high reliability, a risk management procedure has been defined. This procedure is an integral part of operations and decisions within the ISCC system and is based on a number of risk indicators that are continuously monitored and adjusted.