Working towards transparent and objective risk assessment and land use verification
Land use and land use change and its impacts on carbon stock and biodiversity is central to the sustainability debate. Priority areas for nature conservation like wetlands, peatlands, primary forests and protected areas are especially affected by land use change. Their conversion into cropland has severe effects like the release of significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the diminishment of biodiverse habitats has non-reversible consequences like the extinction of species. Beside environmental aspects social issues like working and general living conditions play a crucial role in the sustainability debate.
In the food, feed, chemical and biofuels sector voluntary as well as legal requirements exist that address the urging sustainability issues. An increasing number of standards and certification systems implement these requirements while using different approaches and verification processes. GRAS contributes to a more unifed and transparent verification. Hence, GRAS facilitates the certification process, lowers the costs for certification and lightens the burdens for farmers and companies. At the same time it increases the effectiveness and reliability of certification.
The objective of the GRAS project is to develop a tool that provides reliable information on biodiversity, carbon stock and social indices and allows the identification of land use change.
GRAS worked towards this objective on several work packages:
1. In a first step, a needs assessment was carried out. The results showed that not only auditors conducting sustainability certifications benefit from the tool but also companies that want to verify the sustainability of their biomass supplies. Furthermore, banks and investors can use the tool to line sustainable investment decisions. Another finding of the needs assessment was the broader coverage and integration of social issues in the tool.
2. In a second step available databases containing information about biodiversity were analyzed and their eligibility for the integration in the tool was assessed. Wherever necessary data sharing agreements with the respective data providers were established. Carbon maps showing the total carbon content of regions were calculated on the basis of internationally approved methodologies. Furthermore, information about social issues were gathered from renowned international organizations and on this basis a country-specific social indicator was calculated.
3. In a third step a research for eligible remote sensing data was conducted. Satellite images from various sources were assessed regarding their spatial and temporal resolution and coverage and their availability. Medium-resolution satellite images from MODIS were identified as most eligible for the identification of land use change in the period around 2008.
4. The development of a method to identify land use change was especially challenging. Remote sensing experts from Meo Carbon Solutions and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) worked closely together and succeeded in developing a sophisticated algorithm and analyzing method to identify land use change using medium-resolution satellite imagery. The applied algorithms have been verified and successfully tested on the ground. Several pilot assessments have shown the high accuracy and convincing performance of the tool.
5. Finally, a user-friendly web application was developed which combines and displays all the information in a straight-forward, easy-to-use way. Users can assess their own specific cases, ranging from the analysis of specific farms / plantations to the analysis of entire sourcing regions or countries. Results can be saved and documented in a report.The web application is available for selected pilot regions.
GRAS has been developed in a process which included the involvement of several stakeholders from agriculture, industry, trade, research, authorities and NGOs. Stakeholder workshops in which the tool was presented and discussed, took place in Europe, the Americas, and South East Asia.GRAS is not designed to remain in a steady-state after the ending of the project. GRAS will be continuously improved, administrators and developers will make sure that data sources will be updated and methods will be state of the art. Furthermore, GRAS always welcomes the contribution of stakeholders and users as they help GRAS to further enhance its services.
News and events
GRAS is mentioned in an article of the recent issue of Biofuels International. The article presents how GRAS is used by the well-established certification scheme for support of its Integrity Program. The full article can be found here.
March 15th 2017
GRAS at the COP22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh
Marrakesh, November 12th 2016.
How business can tackle deforestation
GRAS is co-sponsoring the conference "How business can tackle deforestation", which will take place in Washington DC on April 3rd-4th 2017. The conference will provide practical guidance for the development and implementation of zero deforestation policies for business. More information can be found here.
Washington DC, April 3rd-4th 2017
Geo-Information for Palm Oil
GRAS has co-organized the workshop "Geo-information for palm oil" at the Insitut of Computer Science of the University of Osnabrück. The workshop discussed the use of SAR remote sensing data in the palm oil research. More information can be found here.
Osnabrück, February 8th 2017
Copernicus Master 2016
GRAS for sustainable palm oil production
GRAS and its strategic role for supporting sustainable palm oil production are presented in the article "Sustainability as a Success Factor for Palm Oil Producers Supplying the European Vegetable Markets" in the issue Vol. 16(1) 2016 of the Peer Reviewed Journal Oil Palm Industry Economic Journal (OPIEJ).
GRAS for sustainable biofuels
GRAS has presented on the fifth annual seminar of "Sustainability of Biofuels" of the German Association for Bioenergy (BBE) and the Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants (UFOP).
Berlin, November 17th 2016.
GRAS as easy tool for identification of land use change
GRAS is mentioned in an article in Biofuels International discussing the successful implementation of EU policy in the sustainability certification of biofuels for the EU market. In particular, in the article is described how auditors and companies can access GRAS to detect land use change, verify the protection of no-go areas and implement no-deforestation commitments.
GRAS at EEB's Action for Nature Conference in Brussels
GRAS has given a presentation on "The Use of Satellite Imagery and Remote Sensing" at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) Conference Action for Nature to be held in Brussels. The presentation will be part of the session "Better Enforcement of EU Environmental Laws".
Brussels, September 14th 2016.
Advantages of GRAS in the cosmetics and detergents sector
GRAS is presented in the article "Deforestation-free and traceable supply chains for the production of sustainable surfactants" in the July/August issue of the International Peer Reviewed Journal Household and Personal Care Today.
GRAS at EEB Annual Conference 2016 in Vienna
Vienna, September 26th 2016.
How companies can implement and monitor their no-deforestation commitments
GRAS is presented in an article of eco-business as a possible solution for companies to implement and monitor their zero-deforestation commitments. The GRAS Tool provides comprehensive sustainability-related information on biodiversity, carbon stock, land use change and social indices.
GRAS as a tool to guarantee sustainable bioenergy
GRAS is presented in an article in the EU Bioenergy blog discussing the verification and monitoring of sustainable biomass production. The GRAS Tool is described as one of the solutions to guarantee that biomass is produced sustainably and that biodiveristy and carbon stock areas are protected.
How does GRAS work?
Get to know GRAS better and learn what it can do for you and your business.