Largely unnoticed by the public, almost 100 international organisations joined forces in Singapore to fight for fair and environmentally friendly natural rubber production. This platform could set a precedent for sustainability in agriculture.
It has been two years since the BMW Group got together with a number of suppliers, NGOs and other companies to delve deeper into what sustainable rubber production means for the industry. This led to the creation of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), which has since grown significantly. It currently has close to 100 members, including tyre suppliers like Pirelli, Continental and Goodyear and, besides the BMW Group, other car manufacturers such as Ford and Toyota. Collectively, they are responsible for about 50 percent of the world’s natural rubber market volume.
Natural rubber is indispensable to the tyre and vehicle industry. Around three quarters of the natural rubber produced worldwide is used by this sector alone. Although the material is a renewable product that is extracted from the milky liquid of rubber trees, cultivation areas in countries in South-East Asia keep expanding due to rising demand. “We need to take great care that monocultures do not lead to social or environmental issues,” says GPSNR Director Stefano Savi. There is currently no viable alternative to natural rubber.
Six million smallholder farmers responsible for 85 percent of rubber cultivation.
However, the six million small-scale rubber farmers who are responsible for 85 percent of rubber cultivation pose a great challenge. “This makes it extremely difficult for tyre manufacturers and their customers to agree on standardised social and environmental cultivation conditions,” says Savi. One of the GPSNR’s greatest strengths is the participation of over 28 small holders from seven rubber-producing countries, who understand local circumstances and supply chains. This will also ensure that their interest are also considered and that the costs for sustainability initiatives are not passed on to smallholders. Voluntary commitments are not enough at the GPSNR. Its members have taken concrete measures that have been defined in a set of guidelines containing 33 points. They have agreed for instance to policy commitments to stop deforestation, fight corruption and improve working conditions. The overall aim is to achieve more transparency in this very complex supply chain.
For the BMW Group, which has been committed to the GPSNR from the outset, human rights and the protection of forests are an integral part of sustainability standards. “As a premium manufacturer, we aim to provide our customers with a product that is as sustainable as can be. We do not simply pass on the responsibility to tyre manufacturers, but work with them to create better, more human and environmentally friendly working and production conditions in the spirit of the UN 2030 Agenda,” says Patrick Hudde, who is in charge of Purchasing for Raw Materials Management and Sustainability in the Supply Chain at the BMW Group.
The growing membership of the GPSNR demonstrates that more and more companies are adopting this stance. Savi considers this to be “a message to the world and a huge milestone for the natural rubber industry.”
More information about the GPSNR: https://sustainablenaturalrubber.org