26 February 2024

ISCC hosted Global Sustainability Conference 

On 22 February, ISCC hosted its 14th Global Sustainability Conference in Brussels. The hybrid event brought together 280 onsite and 940 online participants and speakers from 74 countries and numerous markets to discuss sustainability challenges and solutions. 

Among all challenges the economy and businesses are facing, climate change is one of the most crucial and urgent ones. To date, the world is only 7,2% circular and huge amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere. In the European Union an estimated 787 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents were released by the end of the third quarter of 2023. This significant amount contributes to accelerating climate change and must be cut by 55% to reach the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by 2030.

It is evident that players across numberous industries and markets must act and join forces to reverse this trend. At the ISCC Global Sustainability Conference, experts and thought leaders of different markets convened to present approaches and instruments that will help deliver on overall and market-specific environmental and CO2 emission reduction goals. Particular emphasis was placed on the recent developments of ISCC and the role of its certification and licensing schemes in the distinct sectors.

Prof Dr Gernot Klepper, former Chairman of the Board at the ISCC Association (2010 to 2024), stated: “Sustainability has changed people’s mindset. More actions have been taken on a corporate and legislative level to turn sustainability ambitions into reality. However, aiming for sustainability is one thing, living up to it and providing transparency along the supply chain is another thing. And that’s where both our opportunities and challenges lie and what we will discuss here.”

Accelerating transformation through policies

Policy frameworks are considered an indispensable instrument to enable effective change and a collaborative transition to more sustainable and less carbon-intense practices.

In the morning session of the conference, representatives from the European Union presented the status quo of some of the existing policies. Among these are the European Green Deal that targets net-zero by 2050, the Fit for 55 Package as well as the EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework. 

Countries and regions with existing regulations increasingly rely on third-party certification, such as ISCC, to make proof of sustainable practices. System Users consider the ISCC certification scheme as a global standard, especially in countries where policy frameworks are not implemented yet. With ISCC’s voluntary add-ons, multiple criteria and regulatory requirements can be certified with little extra effort.

With stringent EU climate goals to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and with the Paris Agreement calling for long-term decarbonisation strategies, the presented frameworks and the adoption of future-forward certification schemes are pivotal. However, the carbon transition requires the adaption of new methods and approaches that encompasses all elements and players across the value and supply chain in the respective markets. 

Cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions

In one of the three exclusive streams, participants gained deeper insight and guidance related to the regulations in place for CO2 emission reductions. A key topic was the Renewable Energy Directive III (RED III), the legal framework for the development of clean energy, and how it is being implemented. As one example for this, participants learned about the status and establishment in the Netherlands. Also, participants listened to numerous presentations about the importance of bioethanol and Renewable Fuels of Non-Biological Origin (RFNBO) in the carbon transition. For instance, renewable ethanol emissions savings in Europe amounted to an average of 78.4% in 2022 and is expected to become a neutral fuel after 2035.

While numerous methods to minimise GHG emissions exist, it is equally important to scale their widespread implementation and demonstrate compliance with certain criteria. In an extensive and solution-oriented panel discussion, the panellists addressed how the use of certification can be reinforced in the European Union. ISCC EU is one of the certification schemes available on the market and applicable for the certification of sustainability and greenhouse gas savings criteria for sustainable fuels in the transport and energy sector. 

 In the closing session of the stream, Andreas Feige, Managing Director at ISCC, detailed the progress ISCC has made in regard to integrity, digitalisation and integration of the Union Database ­­­­for Biofuels. The database is set to provide a promising solution to improve the traceability of gaseous and liquid fuels in Transport Sector.

Circular and bio-based feedstock

The circular economy and bioeconomy have emerged as crucial concepts to reduce primary material extraction and extend material lifecycles as long as possible. Pursuing this concept opens the doors to significantly save resources, minimise greenhouse gas emissions, and tackle climate challenges. While the concept is future-oriented and holds a lot of promise, more must be done to change the narrative from the currently prevailing linear economy to a more circular and bio-based one.

In the second stream, representatives from the European Commission, the chemical and plastic industry as well as brand owners detailed how regulatory framework such as the Single Use Plastic Directive (SUDP) and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) support the just transition. Both regulations are driving forces to lessen the environmental impact of plastic and plastic packaging and set ambitious targets to increase recycling rates and handle resources in an environmentally friendly and conscious way in more and more sectors. 

Jan Henke, Director at ISCC, provided an overview of the company’s offering and its 2024 priorities. “With ISCC PLUS we cover numerous raw materials and markets, but there is more potential to unlock and to scale up. We’ve successfully concluded pilot projects on new mass balance and attribution options and are ready to bring ISCC PLUS to additional global markets. ISCC PLUS is being used by more and more companies voluntarily to certify their use of circular and biogenic raw materials. But we are also focusing on serving markets that will become regulated.”, said Henke. The global expansion is part of ISCC’s growth ambition and its aim to offer solutions that are applicable and recognised worldwide in voluntary and regulated markets. 

He added: ”Over the last few years, the demand for ISCC PLUS certifications and licensing has increased noticeably. This is a very clear and promising sign that more companies want to get their circular and bio-based feedstock certified to create trust and demonstrate transparency. With the ISCC Carbon Footprint Certification, system users can even assess and certify the environmental benefits of products independent of the feedstock.” ISCC will further support the companies in voluntary markets in achieving their commitments, credibly communicating these and facilitating the compliance with future policy frameworks. 

First-hand experiences with the ISCC PLUS certification and the value it offers has been shared by representatives from Dow Chemical, INEOS Styrolution and Mondelēz International. For them, ISCC PLUS and its mass balance approach is an enabler for green change, bringing third-party assurance and trust to recycled plastic. A widely debated topic was the use of logos and claims and how a harmonised use can help increase consumer confidence, trust and brand recognition. 

Low carbon fuels

When it comes to decarbonisation, the aviation and marine industry should not fall short. Given their influence on global CO2 emissions, it is crucial to recognise the urgency and explore solutions to lessen the industry’s environmental impact. Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) or Sustainable Marine Fuels (SMF) respectively are considered the key pillars of the sectors to reach net-zero.

In the third stream of the day, experts from the aviation and maritime industry explored the state of the market and what the widespread use of sustainable fuels, SAF and SMF, could bring about. Their potential is vast: for instance, sustainable aviation fuels produced from biomass or waste can bring down emissions by 80% according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA). As the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and its members strive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, SAFs are seen as one of many powerful tools to help make it happen.

The maritime sector is facing similar scenarios and continues developing. In a blend of presentations and panel discussions, participants learned about the regulatory landscape, how SMF are evolving as well as about their supply and demand. A key takeaway is that the demand for SMF is there but harmonised policy instruments are needed for a smooth market scale-up. 


The conference day has been nothing short of inspiring and insightful. Numerous discussions and presentations emphasised how committed the stakeholders are to drive change. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackle the challenges of our time and make sustainability common practice. Fortunately, distinct mechanisms and solutions already exist. It is on all stakeholders involved in the value and supply chains to incorporate them and unleash their full potential, backed up by the respective policies. 

Rob Vierhout, appointed as new Chairman of the Board at the ISCC Association, concluded: “There are two words that define ISCC. It is sustainability and certification. Both go hand in hand since today, more than ever, you need to provide evidence that whatever you are doing is sustainable. This brings huge chances to ISCC and makes us well positioned to help steer the wheel towards greater sustainability.”

More information on the dedicated sessions can be found in the presentations.