“Sustainable development” has generated substantial buzz since the concept was brought into focus by the Brundtland Commission’s now famous 1987 report, Our Common Future. The Commission defined the concept as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Since then, the definition has been debated and adapted for specific purposes throughout policy, academic, governmental, and organizational circles. Many of these interpretations are only relevant to the circumstances in which they are applied. In the context of biomass and biofuels, sustainability standards are specific rules and criteria by which the production, transportation, and processing of feedstocks can be assessed for their environmental, social, and other values.
In the international community, sustainability guidelines for biomass have begun to emerge, but remain aspirational at best. While high oil prices, increasing pressures to mitigate climate change effects, and efforts to boost rural agricultural production throughout the world will continue to sustain support for the development of biomass and biofuel resources, environmental concerns will temper optimistic projections for the industry.