Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Programme Category


Article available in the following languages:


Environmental sustainability and circularity criteria for industrial bio-based systems


The environmental sustainability and circularity assessment of industrial bio-based systems is instrumental to guarantee and monitor that they are developed in a way they can contribute to the just green transition of the EU economy away from a linear fossil-based system. On one hand, the method for such assessment, applied to high TRL bio-based solutions, would represent an instrument for policy makers and for investors, to support the deployment of and to leverage investments in the best performing bio-based sectors. On the other hand, the assessment of the environmental sustainability and circularity of low TRL, cutting-edge bio-based technologies is important to understand the potential of emerging technologies to contribute to the just green transition, also compared to the more mature technologies. Such knowledge would have an impact on the programming of R&I support initiatives, to save resources and move faster towards the scaling-up of the most promising bio-based technologies, including focussing on the potential environmental hotspots of the emerging technologies.

The assessment of the environmental sustainability and circularity should benefit to the greatest extent possible from existing methodologies and indicators, which can be adapted if needed. Methods and indicators should use the available environmental observations efficiently.

To deliver on the expected outcome, proposals should:

  • Identify the range of high TRL industrial bio-based systems in the Union to be analysed in the project. Industrial bio-based systems within the scope of this topic do not include food, feed, biofuels, bioenergy and cultural and recreation sectors;
  • Improve existing and/or develop new methods to assess environmental impacts of the selected industrial bio-based systems on climate, biodiversity, land use and water resources as priorities, but also on soil, water and air quality. Assessments should consider the life cycle perspective. The impact on climate should include the both the greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon removal potential of bio-based systems. The analysis should include trade-offs, for example between direct and indirect land use and land use change impacts and the carbon storage and substitution effect of bio-based products and provide an overall assessment of the environmental sustainability of the systems within the scope;
  • Improve existing and/or develop new metrics of circularity of industrial bio-based systems based on the application of the cascading approach of biomass use, the resources efficiency, and effectiveness on a life-cycle perspective (i.e. durability, reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling patterns of bio-based products), other circular aspects;
  • Analyse trade-offs and synergies with economic and social objectives (including geographical distribution aspects, urbanization pressures, etc.) and with competing and adjacent economy sectors in the bioeconomy (e.g. food and feed, biofuels and bioenergy) as well as with the fossil-based industrial systems;
  • Collect and analyse the (range of) best available industrial bio-based systems within the Union in terms of environmental and circular performances, to build a set of benchmarks or references with best performances for similar industrial systems;
  • Include the environmental sustainability and circularity of bio-based products, as assessed through the methods developed under the project, in existing certification scheme at EU and global scale, to enable international trade of certified sustainable bio-based products;
  • Consult stakeholders on the applicability of proposed certification schemes, also to improve the societal readiness adaptation in terms of acceptability and uptake of innovations by society;
  • Develop and disseminate guidelines for targeted stakeholders on the assessment methods and the enhanced certification schemes developed in the project;
  • Perform a preliminary analysis and improvement of the methods for the assessment of environmental sustainability and circularity performances of bio-based supply and value chains adapted to very low TRL bio-based technologies through: i) a review of the “prospective” LCA approaches and applications to bio-based and fossil-based technologies, with a focus on the environmental sustainability and circularity assessment approaches and tools. This task would lead to improve understanding and classifying the main challenges of prospective LCAs, e.g. comparability of results, input data availability, uncertainties/robustness, etc.; ii) the adaptation of the “prospective” LCA approaches to very low TRL bio-based technologies, including via modelling approach; iii) modelling the tests to validate the developed methods on a range of low TRL technologies and processes, including in relevant environments for future R&I projects; iv) including the analysis of potential synergies and trade-offs with economic and social objectives;
  • Develop and disseminate guidelines to targeted stakeholders on the assessment of environmental sustainability and circularity performances of bio-based supply and value chains adapted to very low TRL bio-based technologies.

Consortia of applicants should involve LCA experts and researchers in the bio-based technologies, bio-based industries, trade bodies, consumers’ organisations and any relevant stakeholder along the value chain of industrial bio-based systems.

Where relevant, proposals should seek links with and capitalise on the results of past[[ See for example HORIZON-CL6-2021-ZEROPOLLUTION-01-07: International and EU sustainability certification schemes for bio-based systems.]] and ongoing EU funded projects, including under the Circular Bio-based Europe JU[[ See for example CBE JU2022.S1. Developing and validating monitoring systems of environmental sustainability and circularity: collection of best practices and benchmarks]] and other partnerships of Horizon Europe.

This topic requires the effective contribution of SSH disciplines and the involvement of SSH experts, institutions as well as the inclusion of relevant SSH expertise, in order to produce meaningful and significant effects enhancing the societal impact of the related research activities.