Southeast Asia leads the way on Sustainable Rubber. Major manufacturers are taking notice.
7 October 2021 Event report
A supply chain worth hundreds of billions. An industry employing tens of millions. But is it sustainable? Rubber producers in Southeast Asia are demonstrating that, yes, it can be.
On 22 September, we convened a meeting of stakeholders from across the rubber sector. A chance to share lessons learned from successful pilot projects for sustainable rubber in Southeast Asia, the meeting garnered tremendous interest and demonstrated industry demand for more certification and sustainability solutions in the rubber sector.
Watch the event recording:
Participants joined from all over the world, with many attendees from major car manufacturers, tyre producers, and other product processors and international rubber platforms. Government agencies, and non-government organisations focusing on social and environmental issues were also heavily represented in the audience and contributed excellent questions for discussion.
Exciting rubber pilot projects
The meeting focused on pilot projects for innovative group certification for smallholders in Thailand, using a “controlled sources” approach to rubberwood in Malaysia to combat illegal logging while supporting rubber growers, and large-scale rubber and rubberwood certification in Vietnam. It is only fitting that PEFC has focused their attention on these three countries, as 85% of the world’s natural rubber comes from Southeast Asia. If it is to be harvested sustainably, it must be piloted and proven in this region.
Local experts made outstanding contributions to the online gathering, including speakers from the Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG). The VRG already benefits from the certification of nearly 55,000 hectares of rubber plantation for sustainable forest management. This land produces over 60,000 tons of natural rubber and over 300,000 cubic meters of rubberwood. Given the fact that PEFC-certified rubber products receive a higher price and find acceptance in a wider range of markets, this has proved a significant benefit to the VRG.
Meanwhile, PEFC partners, foresters and conservationists in Thailand are proving the viability of group smallholder models in the rubber sector. They’ve shown how to successfully work with cooperatives to connect smallholders and implement sustainable forest management at the macro and the micro levels, simultaneously. Their experience also shows us how important buyer support has been to successfully mainstream certification for rubber.
Finally, Malaysia’s early successes are the result of both creativity and pragmatism. When dealing with a large quantity of rubberwood from trees that are at the end of their productive lives, PEFC partners implemented a Chain of Custody - Due Diligence System (DDS) that allows supply chain companies to use this rubberwood as a replacement for timber harvested from forests. This allows a huge amount of timber into the supply chain in a way that acknowledges it is legal, sustainable, and reduces pressure on neighbouring forests.
Together these three successful projects demonstrate the vision, creativity, and solutions-focused approach of players in the rubber industry who are committed to sustainability. We are proud of these three projects, delighted to have spread awareness about them among so many important players in the rubber industry, and excited about what comes next.