European companies committed to sustainable rubber find partners in Southeast Asia
14 December 2021 Driving innovation
Last month, hundreds of representatives from the natural rubber industry gathered for an online meeting focusing on sustainability in the rubber sector. They came to find new suppliers, and buyers. Vietnam and Malaysia were the stars of the show, along with companies in Germany and Belgium.
Demand for sustainable natural rubber and rubberwood is booming, particularly in the automotive, adhesive, flooring & furniture industries. With that demand has come increased interest among buyers and manufacturers in natural rubber and rubberwood that are sustainably produced. Until recently, that goal has seemed out of reach. A common question among buyers seeking certified natural rubber and rubberwood has been: “But where can we find it?”
New rubber supplies coming online
Today, the reality of a truly sustainable rubber sector is becoming all the more plausible. Large new supplies coming online in Vietnam, as well as significant amounts of rubberwood in Malaysia being treated as “controlled sources”, which is a bridging solution to certification, signal real progress towards sustainability.
That is why, this past November, PEFC invited key players in the rubber industry to gather for a webinar - to connect these new supplies with growing market demand.
First-movers choosing PEFC
Featured speakers at this webinar included first-movers from large European companies that have already identified the benefits of sustainability.
Trade leaders like Weber & Schaer, one of the largest natural rubber trading houses in Europe, and one of the first to procure large stocks of certified natural rubber to infuse into the market. Manufacturing leaders like Unilin, a part of Mohawk Industries, which uses rubberwood to make their beautiful parquet flooring and aim to use 100% PEFC-certified rubberwood by 2027.
Speakers from both Weber & Schaer and Unilin discussed the state of supply, and their willingness to pay a price premium for PEFC-certified rubber material.
By using PEFC chain of custody certification, both of these important industry actors have contributed to making the entire supply chain more transparent, and to granting improved market access to sustainable products. This happens as the world calls on brand owners and retailers to adopt and champion inclusive and sustainable procurement policies. Both Weber & Schaer and Unilin are answering that call, while also meeting their buyers’ and customers’ demands for more sustainable products.
Ensuring smallholders can access certification
While the global rubber sector is valued at over 300 billion USD, the meeting did not neglect to cover the smallholders - primary producers of the vast majority of the world’s rubber.
85% of global natural rubber and rubberwood are produced by smallholders, and PEFC is their certification system of choice. That’s because PEFC operates in a way that is respectful, and truly local, offering right-sized certification solutions for producers large and small. Giving smallholders access to certification is a top priority for the organization, and to that end PEFC has piloted an innovative group certification approach in the world’s top rubber-producing markets.
This meeting was one more step in the direction of a connected, sustainable, and fair supply chain that protects forests and uplifts the livelihoods of vulnerable smallholders. PEFC is proud to be associated with first-movers like Unilin and Weber & Schaer, and grateful that they shared their experience with such a large and diverse audience. If you missed it, you can rewatch the webinar below, or find the Thai and Vietnamese versions here.