Industry Takes Another Step Towards Assuring Sustainable Natural Rubber 

Sydney Jones

Press Secretary

[email protected]

Carole Mitchell

Sr. Director Communications

[email protected]

Industry Takes Another Step Towards Assuring Sustainable Natural Rubber 

December 14, 2021 

Members of the multi-stakeholder Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) today took another important step towards ensuring the production, processing and consumption of natural rubber does not contribute to the destruction of tropical forests, land grabbing or human rights abuses. 

Following from 2020’s vote by GPSNR members – such as Michelin, Bridgestone, Continental and Pirelli – to introduce comprehensive sustainability policy requirements for rubber companies, today saw overwhelming support for a resolution in favor of new reporting requirements, which will set high standards for how companies gather information and communicate on the delivery of their policy commitments. Like the policy components, the reporting requirements cover issues such as ensuring zero deforestation, protecting critical natural habitats and freshwater resources, anti-bribery and corruption, respecting land rights, and upholding human and labor rights within members’ natural rubber operations and supply chains. 

Commenting on the successful outcome of the vote at the GPSNR Annual Assembly, Mighty Earth’s Senior Director for Rubber, Dr Julian Oram, stated: “Today marks a significant advancement in our efforts to transform the global rubber industry, and reflects a huge effort by both CSOs and industry members of the Working Group that designed these reporting requirements. It should provide a crucial springboard for developing a convincing model of sustainability assurance and monitoring in the rubber sector going forward.” 

GPSNR was co-founded in 2019 by Mighty Earth and several other CSOs, along with a small number of rubber producer/ processors, tire companies, and auto manufacturers. Its mission is to deliver improvements in the socioeconomic and environmental performance of the natural rubber value chain. Over the past twelve months, GPSNR’s membership has grown from 92 to 156 members, including 39 new smallholder farmer representatives from nine rubber producing countries. 

While encouraging, this latest step remains just that – a small step. Thus far GPSNR has registered some notable successes, such as the widespread adoption of sustainable rubber policies, the establishment of a Grievance Mechanism with teeth, the inclusion of smallholder representatives as equal stakeholders in GPSNR’s governance, the development of tools for rubber supply chain traceability, and the establishment of national groups to undertake concrete capacity building initiatives on sustainable natural rubber, including agroforestry. 

Nonetheless, the ultimate success of the initiative still hangs in the balance. GPSNR has yet to develop an assurance model to robustly assess members’ compliance with their obligations, or gauge how the Platform is adding value to local efforts to boost sustainability at the farm level. There is also much work to do in developing a shared responsibility model that delivers greater equity and “benefit-sharing” across rubber value chains; including ensuring smallholder growers are fairly rewarded for sustainability improvements on their farms. At a more fundamental level, there is still a great deal of resistance amongst industry participants to embrace full supply chain transparency – a crucial prerequisite in being able to understand where problems persist in rubber-growing regions.  

Dr Oram cautioned, “The coming twelve months will determine whether the promising groundwork laid at the GPSNR to date ultimately bears fruit in the form of a truly effective self-regulating and self-monitoring industry that improves the livelihoods of rubber smallholders and workers, whilst protecting tropical forests and wildlife habitats. Watch this space!” 

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