/ ©: Mauri Rautkari / WWF-Canon

Responsible Biofuels

Biofuels are emerging as an increasingly popular alternative to fossil fuels. Indeed, they could make a massive contribution to sustainable development.

However, the commodities used to produce biofuels, like soy, palm oil and sugarcane, are often produced in ways that affects the environment in some of the world’s most sensitive ecosystems.

WWF is striving to change this so that biofuels can reach their potential without harming nature.

How "green" are biofuels really?

Of all the renewable energies, biomass is unique as it is stored solar energy. If managed and used correctly, it can be carbon-neutral.

But, bioenergy production can also have significant negative environmental and social impacts.

To grow the crops used to make biofuels, swathes of forests and other valuable ecosystems are often cleared – contributing to climate change, ruining people’s homes and livelihoods and destroying endangered species’ habitats. 

10% Amount of energy consumed globally that is provided by bioenergy, mostly consumed in developing countries.

► Read more why the biofuel industry needs to minimise its environmental impact


Our approach

We support bioenergy production that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

By improving the way global commodities such as palm oil, soy and sugarcane used for biofuels are produced, we can reduce our global environmental footprint and significantly drive up markets that offer responsible products, goods and services. 

The most comprehensive and ambitious of the recognized schemes is the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB), a multistakeholder organisation of which WWF is a member.

The RSB’s principles and criteria include avoiding negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 50%, maintaining water resources, improving food security, and contributing to social and economic development.

WWF Targets

2015: 15% of global bioenergy prodcution meets WWF requirements as defined in RSB, Bonsucro, RTRS, RSPO and FSC


< 3% of global biofuels are third-party certified, sustainably produced by standards set by RSB, RSPO, RTRS and Bonsucro (August 2013)

► Read more about WWF’s work on sustainable biofuels

Example: Making sure biofuels deliver truly environment-friendly gains

On the face of it, a project to supply renewable energy that could bring rural jobs and much-needed economic growth in a developing country sounds like just the sort of project WWF would support.

But when large-scale biofuel plantations were proposed near the Kenyan coast, WWF joined other conservation and human rights NGOs, led by Nature Kenya, in campaigning against them.

Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) listened, and advised the government against allowing jatropha plantations in the coastal region. 

WWF is now working with Nature Kenya, individual conservationists, other NGOs and the government to develop a longterm land-use plan for the delta.

The challenge is to ensure that increased biofuel cultivation does not come at the expense of food production or replace land needed by people and nature. Building a market for sustainable biofuels is key to this.

Read full story

Better Production for a Living Planet

 / ©: WWF
Read our case study on growing cotton in Pakistan, extracted from Better Production for a Living Planet (2012).


  • Habitat conversion;
  • Unsustainable water abstraction;
  • Carbon emissions;
  • Pollution of soil, water and air;
  • Food security.
  • Potential to reduce habitat destruction and biodiversity
  • Less in some of Earth’s most precious natural places;
  • Potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Rural development opportunities;
  • Reduce energy dependence.

Bioenergy can make an important contribution to providing access to sustainable energy for all. Credible sustainability standards, such as the one developed by the RSB, help manage risks on a project level and promote best practices among producers and processors, complementing sound regional and national energy planning and policy.

Martina Otto, Head of of Policy Unit, Energy Branch United Nations Environment Programme

Be part of the solution

► Interested parties can apply to join the Roundable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) to support biomaterial sustainability across the globe: Find out more here
  •  / ©: Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB)
    The RSB provides and promotes the global standard and certification scheme for socially, environmentally and economically sustainable production of biomass and biofuels.


Priority Countries

  • Production
    Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Russia


    China, EU, USA


  • Demand drivers
    Income, consumption, urbanization, changes in government policy.

    Future focus for success
    China, Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania.

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