Regulating a global value chain with the European Union's sustainability criteria – experiences from the Swedish liquid transport biofuel sector
Summary, in English
Despite promises that they can contribute toward more environmentally beneficial transportation there are many sustainability concerns about liquid transport biofuels. In response to pressure from civil society, the European Union (EU) has introduced sustainability criteria for biofuels. A hybrid regulatory system involving state and non-state actors stipulates that retailers and producers must comply to be eligible for fiscal support such as tax exemptions. Flexibility in the system allows choice between different means of compliance, including a range of voluntary schemes. We present an analysis of views within the Swedish liquid transport biofuel sector in 2012 – a year after the introduction of EU sustainability criteria. Using document analysis, official statistics, and a survey, we use four key structures of global value chains — input–output structure, territorial configuration, institutional framework, and firm-level chain governance structure — to structure an analysis of biofuel value chain coordination. This yields three main findings regarding how the Swedish liquid transport biofuel system operates within, and views, the new regulatory framework. Firstly that it uses a broad portfolio of feedstock mainly from within Europe, seemingly avoiding countries where any supply conditions may be in doubt; second, larger retailers and producers achieve compliance without the need to provide additional social sustainability information; third, that actors exhibit predominantly Eurocentric perspectives on sustainability, express confidence that their supply chains have strong ‘sustainability performance’ and desire long-term policy stability. We conclude that despite a deep critique of the sustainability of biofuels amongst civil society and academia, EU regulation allows for production systems that reflect a European- and climate change mitigation-centred view on biofuel ‘sustainability’.