International bioeconomy development group to expand its South African initiative 

15th May 2020 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The international bioeconomy development and promotion organisation, RSB, hopes to launch a Bioeconomy Initiative Platform in South Africa later this year. This platform has been shaped with inputs from business, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and government. It will function as an instrument to develop solutions for a number of economic sectors that will be context-specific. The immediate focus will be research and education regarding the sustainability of bio-based plastics.

This initiative is part of RSB’s global ‘Fuelling the Sustainable Bioeconomy’ project, the other major programmes of which are located in Ethiopia and Brazil. This global project was launched last year and is being supported by giant US aerospace group Boeing’s Global Engagement Portfolio. 

“RSB has also been engaging [South African] national stakeholders to input into the development of RSB guidance for the sustainable eradication of invasive alien biomass, which is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, water security and livelihoods in the country,” states the organisation. “The guidance will be piloted during 2020, promoted to energy and heat producers that are committed to the decarbonisation of their supply chains and meet government’s environmental objectives, and finally communicated to the public via a webinar.”

Local project Reya Fofa, which seeks to scale-up the production of feedstocks for sustainable aviation fuels and biodiesel, has committed itself to certification by RSB. The international organisation is also examining how its standards can be applied to support sustainability in a number of sectors of the South African economy. The results of these enquiries will be published in a series of short reports during the rest of this year. The first sectors being looked at are marine fuels, plastics and textiles. 

In Ethiopia, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the government, RSB is focused on the development of sustainable aviation fuels in the country. Since then, RSB has worked with the Ethiopian authorities, sector experts, the national airline, NGOs and oil companies to develop a ‘Sustainable Aviation Fuel Roadmap’ for the country. In addition, RSB is actively helping develop a bioeconomy strategy for Ethiopia and East Africa, being led by Kenya-based BioInnovate Africa. 

In the case of Brazil, RSB’s main focus is on working with Brazilian organisations and institutions, with a primary focus on sustainable biofuels, especially for aviation. These organisations include the country’s leading bioeconomy advocacy group, the Brazilian BioInnovation Association, and the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture. Last year, RSB established a scholarship at Brazil’s top academic institution for bioeconomy and biofuel research, the (São Paulo) State University of Campinas.

RSB stands for the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials, but this full name is rarely used. It seeks to develop “sustainability solutions”, and to promote innovation, provide certification and create collaborative partnerships.

Its members include businesses, NGOs, governments, United Nations agencies and academics. It is organised into five ‘Chambers’ – Chamber 1: growers and producers; 2: end users, blenders and investors; 3: social; 4: environmental; and 5: UN, governments and research. These Chambers elect the Assembly of Delegates, which is RSB’s governing body. The Assembly appoints the board of directors, which oversees the secretariat, which undertakes the routine operation of the organisation.