Global & Regional Bounce Back By Supporting Sustainable Rubber

A greater commitment to sustainability in the production and supply chain of natural rubber will help the global industry bounce back better after the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 
If this grows in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, it will have even more impact in the Asia Pacific region for many more years to come. 
Despite the size of the industry and the complexity of the supply chain, the sources of natural rubber are quite modest and largely concentrated in Southeast Asia. 
What’s more, 85% is produced by six million smallholders, tapping and tending rubber trees on independent plantations. Significantly, most of these plantations are in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
As the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) gets ready to launch its global Supporting Sustainable Rubber campaign in July, earlier in June – as reported in the Media News Bulletin - the organisation was actively involved in two major international rubber events:
  • On the eve of World Environment Day (5 June), the Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF) organised a webinar for the Rubber Board, Ministry of Commerce, and Industry, Government of India on Long Term Sustainability of the Resource and Rubber Industry in India. It’s clear the Indian Rubber Industry is growing at a fast pace, so it is necessary for natural rubber to be produced from sustainably managed plantations.
  • Meantime, the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Government of Cote d'Ivoire, organised the virtual World Rubber Summit (WRS) 2021 on 10 June. The theme was ‘’Facing the Future: Inclusiveness, Sustainability and Growth for the Next Normal’’. Richard Laity, PEFC Southeast Asia Manager along with other panellists from Asia Pacific, participated in a debate on the topic: ‘Climate Adaption & Mitigation: Farm to Trade’.
What was learnt from these events is that natural rubber is an essential raw material used in the creation of more than 40,000 products. It represents a USD300 billion supply chain involving 40 million people (IRSG, 2019). 
There’s more to learn:
  • 47% of the global rubber supply is natural, derived from about 14 million hectares of plantations around the world.
  • In 2018, the total value of that rubber was US$40.71 billion.
  • In 2019, natural rubber production reached 13.6 million metric tonnes.
  • 70% of natural rubber goes into tyre production. 
  • Rubber plantations produce more than rubber! About 63 million green tonnes of rubber wood are produced annually.
  • Rubber wood is the world’s most widely traded tropical hardwood (ITTO, 2017).
PEFC has had 20 years of experience championing the rights of smallholders and forest operators in Southeast Asia. As it has provided chain of custody certification for products originally sourced from forests, like furniture, flooring, paper and packaging, it is also doing the same for natural rubber and rubber wood, whether its end use is for rubber tyres for vehicles or footwear for athletes.
It is also a member of the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG) and a founding supporter of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), both with their global headquarters in Singapore. 
PEFC knows that sustainable forest management and chain of custody certifications work together to achieve best practice, by tracking natural rubber and rubber wood from the plantations to the final products. 
For its Supporting Sustainably Rubber campaign, PEFC has identified four categories where partnerships are essential:
  • Company-led procurement policies
  • Local capacity and infrastructure building
  • Public policies to enable legal frameworks
  • Transformation of production to improve yield and quality, as well as living incomes
For more go to PEFC international: Supporting Sustainable Rubber