Sustainability Protocol

The PNW-Biochar Declaration of Sustainability 


To set forth a shared vision and direction for the future of this technology among Biochar proponents to prevent unintended consequences that could potentially arise from this process.

To make clear to a broader stakeholder group that the pioneering efforts in Biochar production are directed toward helping people, helping the planet, and creating value.

Whereas Biochar Production creates value in all the following ways:
  • Creates Energy 
  • Sequesters Carbon 
  • Creates a valuable soil amendment 
And whereas each of these means of value creation could lead to a single end goal of wealth creation at the expense of people and the planet, let it be known that Biochar producers shall strictly adhere to protocols that promote the health of people and the planet as the process creates value. We propose the following be developed and adopted:
  • Protocols for the Creation of Biochar Energy 
  • Protocols for the Sequestration of Carbon from Biochar Production 
  • Protocols for creating Biochar soil amendments 


PNW-Biochar would like to thank the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance for allowing us to utilize much of their work in our development of sustainability standards for the Biochar community see

PNW-Biochar hopes to provide a process for biochar stakeholders (those actually farming, producing, distributing and using biochar) to determine what methodologies they would need certify and adopt to ensure that they are in fact making and utilizing biochar in a socially, environmentally and economically sound manner . The result is that in the first phase of these baseline sustainability practices, we are developing an approach that is practical and market driven but based on the best science and information available.

The desire is to develop practices that can be implemented immediately while research and technology continue to develop and evolve. This will be an on going project-- reflecting the core principle that true sustainability is a dynamic journey and not a distinct destination. As science and policy continue to progress, the Biochar Sustainability Protocol will adopt principles according to the most up to date research and data available.There are other similar efforts currently underway globally, and PNW-Biochar is committed to working with these efforts to ensure consistency among protocols.

The following document lays out principles, which set goals for all participants in the life-cycle of biochar. The principles are followed by baseline practices. The baseline practices are intended to set the threshold for where sustainability begins. As  PNW-Biochar  gathers information from the implementation of the practices through pilot programs and participating PNW-Biochar members, we will be developing sustainability standards and indicators with which to measure them. These standards will ultimately serve as the criteria third party certification.

PNW-Biochar hopes to include representatives from all segments of the biochar industry, in an open forum, to discuss the definition and dynamics of sustainable (regenerative) biochar production and utilization. The development of these protocols will be based on full life cycle analysis of the biochar system-- applying environmental, social and economic concerns. The (Name) will create four work groups representing the industry segments of biochar feedstock, production, distribution and commercial end users. The following document will act as a frame work for the development process of these .

Guiding Principles

The lifecycle of biochar from feedstock to the end use which grows more feedstock is understood as a closed loop process. It is a cradle to cradle approach that declares the value of natural and human capital that makes a sustainable process. From short to long term views, the principles can be broadly grouped as having a political, economic, social or environmental nature.
  1. Political

    1. Policies
    1. Democratic Process
      1. Supports democratic governance
    1. Round Table
    1. Inclusive
  2. Economic

    1. Subsidies
      1. Does not require subsidies for profit
    1. Carbon Market
      1. Supports with recalcitrant carbon
  3. Social

    1. Food Security
      1. Sustainable production of biochar does not jeopardize food security by displacing land used for growing critical food crops with biochar feedstock crops.
    1. Local Communities
      1. Local communities are an integral part of the development of the Sustainable biochar industry. Local strategies for biochar production with citizen input are created. Local consumption of Sustainable biochar is prioritized and encouraged.
    1. Communities and Workers
      1. Family and small holder farmers are not to be displaced to grow or harvest biochar feedstock. Farmers should receive fair compensation for the biochar feedstock they produce. The health and safety of workers and communities should be protected. In addition, fair / livable wages for agricultural workers and workers at biochar production facilities are ensured.
  4. Environmental

    1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions
      1. Sustainable biochar results in net GHG reductions compared to other fossil and biofuels when analyzed via a life-cycle assessment. Fossil energy used in growing, transporting and processing biochar must be considered. Converting land from wilderness or grasslands to plant biochar feedstock crops also releases GHG and is not sustainable.
    1. Energy Conservation
      1. Sustainable biochar production improves energy and resource conservation. Wasteful use of fossil fuels should not be replaced with wasteful use of biochar. Instead, significant reductions in total consumption, together with increased conservation, shall be a priority.
    1. Soil
      1. Sustainable biochar does not degrade or damage soils and should contribute to long-term maintenance and improvement of soil quality.
    1. Water
      1. Sustainable biochar production does not contaminate water and utilizes water resources efficiently.
    1. Air
      1. Sustainable biochar production and use improves air quality and does not lead to increased air pollution as compared to fossil fuels.
    1. Biodiversity Conservation
      1. Sustainable biochar production does not lead to the destruction, degradation or declassification of high conservation value areas; areas of high biodiversity; habitats of rare, threatened or endangered species; or rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems. Protected areas, including grasslands, wetlands, forests etc. should not be declassified or appropriated for biochar crop production. At the landscape level, Sustainable biochar production systems contribute to the conservation and maintenance of native biological diversity. More information on indirect land use change will be included as data becomes available.
    1. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
      1. Sustainable biochar is derived from non-GMO feedstock. However, if GMOs are used for the production of biochar, it shall be made transparent, so that producers and consumers can make informed decisions.
    1. Agrochemicals
      1. Sustainable biochar crop production minimizes, and eliminates whenever possible, the use of dangerous agrochemicals. Agrochemicals that are hazardous to the environment, workers, and local communities will not be used.  Chemicals used are non-persistent and chemicals that are endocrine disrupting, carcinogenic or mutagenic in humans should be phased out. Preference should be given to the selection of crops and cropping systems that are productive and sustainable without reliance on agrochemicals.
    1. Next Generation Feedstock 
      1. Feedstock that is currently under development but not yet used commercially  should be developed with the consideration of the aforementioned principles.


Sustainability - the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations’ abilities to meet their own needs. *U.S. Environmental protection Agency

Sustainable Biochar - biochar that is produced in a manner that, on a life-cycle basis, ____, including greenhouse gases; reduces competition for, and use of, natural resources and energy; reduces waste generation; preserves habitat and ecosystems; maintains or improves soils; avoids use of genetically modified organisms; and provides community economic benefit that results in jobs and fair labor conditions. *(Name)