Navigating the path to responsible HVO procurement

As more businesses turn to using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) as a green fuel, the more important it becomes that it is sourced responsibly.

To address the complexity surrounding HVO as a fuel, Action Sustainability have produced a new report on behalf of the Supply Chain Sustainability School called ‘Responsible Sourcing of HVO – A Comprehensive Guide’.

The purpose of the report, they explain, is neither to promote the use of HVO, not to discourage its use but to present the facts with ‘relevant procurement guidance applied to that knowledge to advise the reader.’

The problem with HVO surrounds its origins. If it made from waste material such as used cooking oil, all’s well and good but, as demand grows, more is likely to be made from virgin crops such as palm oil, which is closely associated with deforestation in Southeast Asia.

As an indication of the difficulty in knowing what you are getting, the document includes a chapter on fraud, referencing a case in the Netherlands where investigators found that as much as one third of the biodiesel claimed to be derived from used cooking oil was likely to have been made from virgin oils.

This is such a significant factor in determining the sustainability of the HVO you are using that it is the first of the report’s nine recommendations: ‘It is recommended that only second-generation biofuels made from waste feedstocks are purchased, rather than first-generation biofuels made from virgin oil food crops.’

The wide ranging document takes the reader through:

  • The sustainability benefits and impacts of biofuels and HVO in particular
  • The scale of availability and the size of the HVO market
  • How that market can be distorted
  • Mechanisms to mitigate such risks

At the end, the document leaves it up to the reader to decide how to approach EVO procurement, this being dependent on how they view the risks of reputation damage, incomplete carbon accounting and security of supply.

Ben Stone, Head of Environmental Sustainability at Kier Group, said: ‘The construction industry has a key role in supporting the UK’s transition to a lower carbon economy. This report and its recommendations shine a light on the role HVO can play, and where it can be utilised to provide a low-carbon solution.

‘Working collaboratively with the Supply Chain Sustainability School and its Partners, we were pleased to advise on the research and development of the Responsible Sourcing of HVO report to provide clear and much-needed guidance to support the industry with procuring this fuel responsibly.’

Jo Potts, Sustainability Director, Responsible Sourcing & Social Impact at Balfour Beatty said: ‘At Balfour Beatty, we take pride in acting responsibly, considering the full environmental, social and economic implications of our actions to ensure that we’re not solving one challenge whilst creating another. It’s refreshing to see this guide, which we are pleased to have contributed to, takes a holistic approach and moves away from carbon tunnel-vision, clearly setting out the pros, the cons and most critically, the unknowns of HVO fuels.’


Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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