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The Role of Certification in Sustainability

With the growth of standards and certification as the major tool for global production and trade to become more sustainable and for the private sector to demonstrate sustainability leadership, it is essential that there are ways to assess the legitimacy and performance of different initiatives. Company and government buyers, as well as NGOs and civil society groups committed to sustainable production, need clarity on which standards and ecolabels are delivering real social, environmental and economic results.



Frequently Asked Questions



How do approaches to sustainability for United States biomass compare and relate to other standards?


The United States' approach is distinct due to institutional mandates and historical emphasis on private land rights. Relevant data are collected and available from multiple public sources. Historical land use trends are published by the Economic Research Service of the Department of Agriculture. Management and monitoring of public natural resources in the United States is distributed among many different state and federal agencies. The Forest Service maintains up-to-date inventories of forest resources and forest products. While the United States Department of Agriculture monitors farm programs and cropland uses, management practices on private properties are influenced by tax laws, zoning, and permitting that vary by locality and state. Regulations govern air, water, biodiversity, health, etc. These aspects, combined with programs and public-private partnerships to monitor key resources, provide distinct information based on measurement of physical conditions. A key aspect of United States assessment involves processes that track and share data on:

Other Helpful Resources:

  • TPO

    Timber Products Output

    FIA conducts Timber Products Output (TPO) studies to estimate industrial and non-industrial uses of roundwood in a state. To estimate industrial uses of roundwood, all primary wood-using mills in a state are canvassed. 

  • FIA

    Forest Inventory and Analysis

    The Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program of the United States Forest Service provides the information needed to assess America's forests. 

  • MLU

    Major Land Uses

    The United States land area covers nearly 2.3 billion acres. In 2012, the latest update to ERS's Major Land Uses (MLU) series, grassland pasture and range uses accounted for the largest share of the nation's land base, surpassing land in forest uses, which includes grazed forest land, for the first time since 1959.

How can I show compliance with sustainability standard requirements?


This depends on what market you want to reach and what product is applicable (see Standards By Source). Regulations often describe requirements and applicable standards (e.g.,

How is the sustainability of United States-sourced wood, pellets, ethanol and biodiesel assessed?


Sustainability analyses relevant to the United States:

EPA Inventory of United States Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks

USDA Forest Service

United States Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Resources to understand embedded calculations can be found at the following links

Reports and analyses supported by BETO on sustainability issues for:

  • specific fuel pathways
    • relevant case studies,
    • TEAs,
    • GREET studies,
  • and specific areas
  • Relevance and links to EPA annual inventories of sinks and emissions (GHG) by sector