Different types of industry have different relationships towards the soil. While many “conventional” industries have a rather strong relationship (e.g. mining), the focus in BonaRes is on agriculture and the bioeconomy. Bioeconomy aims at sustainable und efficient use of biological resources like plants, animals and microorganism; it is an attempt to substitute above-ground, renewable resources (biomass) for below-ground, non-renewable (fossil) resources.

Bioeconomy plays a role in following industrial and economic branches that use biological resources (Pannicke et al. 2015).


  • Agriculture, Forestry and Aquaculture
  • Chemical industry and Biotechnology
  • Materials industry
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Food industry
  • Textile industry
  • Paper industry

Along the supply chain it is possible to structure the bioeconomy in five stages: primary production, primary processing, intermediate product, consumable and secondary raw material stage. This is relevant for differentiating biomass after production sector and degree of vertical integration.

Renewable resources can subdivide into four categories due to their utilization: Oleochemical use and products; biomaterials; organic chemicals based on carbohydrates, fine and special chemicals, chemical intermediates; material use and products based on other renewable resources.

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).

There is no reason to assume that bioeconomy companies significantly deviate from the normal profit-oriented behaviour of private firms. However, in many cases, environmental and economic goals may be better aligned in this context than in traditional sectors of the economy. 

In Germany and the EU, the development of the bioeconomy is strongly influenced by political agendas and strategies. In 2018, the European Commission published an updated Bioeconomy Strategy. In Germany, the policy strategy on bioeconomy and the national research strategy on bioeconomy towards 2030 are relevant.

Retailers are customers of industrial products and a link between consumers and industry. Industry can also produce for the brands of the retailers. Increasingly, the bioeconomy generates consumer products (such as biomaterials), thus increasing the potential for interaction with retail.

The relationship of consumers towards industries and sectors associated with the bioeconomy is ambivalent. While many people demand a sustainable economy, they are often critical towards new technologies, especially in the context of biotechnology (Pannicke et al. 2015; James 2018).

Farmers are important for the bioeconomy as suppliers of raw materials. In Germany, 15 per cent of agricultural land are used for energy crops cultivation (Deutscher Bauernverband 2018). Nearly two-thirds of renewable energy comes from biomass. At the same time, farmers are one group of customers of biotechnology products, especially new crop variaties.

in progress ...

  • Deutscher Bauernverband, 2018. Situatuationsbericht 2017/2018. Trends und Fakten zur Landwirtschaft.
  • D’Amato, D., Droste, N., Allen, B., Kettunen, M., Lähtinen, K., Korhonen, J., Leskinen, P., Matthies, B.D., Toppinen, A., 2017. Green, circular, bio economy: A comparative analysis of sustainability avenues. Journal of Cleaner Production 168: 716–734. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.09.053
  • Hausknost, D., Schriefl, E., Lauk, C., Kalt, G., 2017. A transition to which bioeconomy? An exploration of diverging techno-political choices. Sustainability 9: 669. doi:10.3390/su9040669
  • Helming, K., Daedlow, K., Paul, C., Techen, A.-K., Bartke, S., Bartkowski, B., Kaiser, D., Wollschläger, U., Vogel, H.-J., 2018. Managing soil functions for a sustainable bioeconomy—Assessment framework and state of the art. Land Degradation and Development 29: 3112–3126. doi:10.1002/ldr.3066
  • Hertel, T., Steinbuks, J., Baldos, U., 2014. Competition for land in the global bioeconomy. Agricultural Economics 44: 129–138. doi:10.1111/agec.12057
  • James, H. (Ed.), 2018. Ethical Tensions from New Technology: The Case of Agricultural Biotechnology. CABI, Oxfordshire; Boston.
  • Pannicke, N., Hagemann, N., Purkus, A., Gawel, E., 2015. Gesellschaftliche Grundfragen der Bioökonomie. Volkswirtschaftliche Mehrwerte und Nachhaltigkeitsanforderungen einer biobasierten Wirtschaft. UFZ Discussion Paper, Department of Economics, 7/2015.
  • Poore, J., Nemecek, T., 2018. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science 360: 987–992. doi:10.1126/science.aaq0216
  • Ramcilovic-Suominen, S., Pülzl, H., 2018. Sustainable development – A ‘selling point’ of the emerging EU bioeconomy policy framework? Journal of Cleaner Production 172: 4170–4180. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.12.157
  • Székács, A., 2017. Environmental and ecological aspects in the overall assessment of bioeconomy. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 30: 153–170. doi:10.1007/s10806-017-9651-1
  • Wesseler, J., von Braun, J., 2017. Measuring the Bioeconomy: Economics and Policies. Annual Review of Resource Economics 9: 275–298. doi:10.1146/annurev-resource-100516-053701
  • Wolff, A., Gondran, N., Brodhag, C., 2017. Detecting unsustainable pressures exerted on biodiversity by a company. Application to the food portfolio of a retailer. Journal of Cleaner Production 166: 784–797. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.08.057