Can ISSC PLUS certification be misleading – if the bio-based share is not labelled too?

Comment by Michael Carus, nova-Institute

On 23 April 2014 SABIC announced “that it will launch its first portfolio of certified renewable polyolefins, certified under the ISCC Plus certification scheme, which involves strict traceability and requires a chain of custody based on a mass balance system. The portfolio, which includes renewable polyethylenes (PE) and polypropylenes (PP), responds to the increasing demand for sustainable materials from SABIC’s customers.”

Imagine you see the new SABIC PE or PP granulates with the label ISCC PLUS which claims “Certified Sustainability” – what will you think about the product? What does it mean? Are all of the PE or PP granulates themselves “certified as sustainable”? Or is it the feedstock used for the production of the material?

The truth is: Neither of them are! The certification applies only to the biomass share of the feedstock and the granulates, without any information on the actual quantity of the share. SABIC uses certified sustainable “animal fats and waste” in their crackers: “We have optimized our technology to allow the production of renewable PP and PE using renewable feedstocks, which are made from waste fats.”

But there is no minimum share of biomass required. So even if SABIC uses only 5% (certified) biomass and 95% crude oil for their PE and PP production, the ISCC PLUS label on the granulate still claims “Certified Sustainability” – although 95% of the feedstock and the product are not bio-based and therefore NOT certified as sustainable!

We think that this is not a good idea. This could be misleading and can be harmful to the ISCC PLUS label and the companies using it. Some NGOs might (and will) call it “green-washing”. Is SABIC trying to get a GreenPremium price without having relevant additional costs?

We suggest that the ISCC PLUS label – as well as other labels such as RSB – should only be used in direct correlation to the quantified share of the bio-based feedstock which they classify. That means in detail:

  • It has to be clear that the label is only for the bio-based share of the feedstock in the product.
  • That would mean in practice: The bio-based carbon content should always be labelled too – for example using the established label from Vinçotte or DIN CERTCO.

Read more and download the full article from bioplastics MAGAZINE at


bioplastics MAGAZINE, 2014/04.


DIN CERTCO Gesellschaft für Konformitätsbewertung
International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC)
nova-Institut GmbH
Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB)
Vinçotte International