Business choices have effects upstream and downstream in supply chains and especially the way of production and processing affects the environment (Wolff et al. 2017; Poore and Nemecek 2018). Industrial companies have the possibility to change their management in an environmental friendly way. The very goal of bioeconomy is to make industrial production more sustainable (Hausknost et al. 2017; Ramcilovic-Suominen and Pülzl 2018) by substituting bio-based materials and resources for fossil resources. Whether it can achieve this goal is unclear (Székács 2017).
Bioeconomy contributes to the increasing pressures on land and soils. In 2014 in Germany, 14.1 per cent of the agricultural land was used for cultivation of renewable resources, mostly for energy crops. Yet the inland cultivation is not enough to satisfy demand, so that import of renewable resources is also high (Pannicke et al. 2015). Assuming a sustainable use of resources, the bioeconomy can contribute to soil conservation and soil quality. On the other hand, due to an increase pressure on land and soil, bioeconomy can have negative impacts in terms of degradation, contamination, compaction and biodiversity (Helming et al. 2018). Size and pattern of land-use change for bioeconomy depend on various factors, including the use of biofuel by-products, productivity of new land brought into production, potential for supply responses at the intensive margin, geography of international trade and potential constraints to expansion of irrigated land (Hertel et al. 2014). If combined with the idea of circular economy (D’Amato et al. 2017), the bioeconomy may be beneficial for the environment, including soils.
Due to the diversity of bioeconomy-related sectors (Wesseler and von Braun 2017) a very large number of potential governance instruments exist that can be used to target bioeconomy-related soil management. These include labelling and certification schemes, but also regulations and incentive-based instruments. For instance, soil carbon certification has become a prominent topic in the context of negative emissions for the mitigation of climate change (see Soil carbon certificates).