Sustainability Framework for Biomass Energy in Asia

Sustainability Framework for Biomass Energy in Asia


Asia, led by South Korea and Japan, is emerging as a center of gravity for biomass energy. Choosing the right sustainability framework and the right certification has remain a controversial subject. Japan is currently the only country that requires certification.

Among the existing choices for certification schemes in Japan are FSC/PEFC and SBP.

  • FSC has been the most popular schemes in Japan because: (a) Vietnam has been the dominant exporting country for wood pellets imported by Japan and (b) FSC until recently has remained to be the only certification for forest products available in Vietnam — due to the legacy from the furniture industry.
  • SBP is popular in Europe (importing) and North America (exporting) and is also considered as a framework of choice.

We argue that FSC is a wrong system to use for biomass energy and that SBP needs to evolve to adapt to the supply chain landscapes in Asia.

Why FSC is not the right fit

FSC was designed for forest management, not for biomass energy. It is both unnecessary and insufficient for sustainable biomass.


FSC was designed to certify forests only. It is irrelevant for other sources of biomass materials such as agricultural trees (coffee, cashew, etc.), rice husks, sugarcane bagasse, etc. — which are plenty and can be excellent materials to make pellets.


Due to its legacy, FSC does not consider the carbon accounting aspect and does not consider how the trees will be used. This does not ensure the carbon neutrality of biomass energy.

Why SBP needs to be adapted

SBP was initially born out of the inadequacy of systems such as FSC/PEFC. Its design was tailored to the commonalities in Europe and North America.

It is therefore needs to be re-tailored to cover Asia, especially Southeast Asia — which has different characteristics and has become a major exporting regions for wood pellets. Some of these characteristics are described specifically for Vietnam in