Rubber industry aims to halt land grabbing and deforestation

By agency reporter
March 22, 2019

A new global initiative could play a key part in tackling the devastating deforestation and land grabs caused by the expansion of rubber plantations, according to the non-governmental group Global Witness. 

The Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), launched on 21 March 2019 at the World Rubber Summit in Singapore, is the first global multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at addressing environmental and human rights abuses driven by the rubber industry.

Platform members include major brand tyre companies and car manufacturers, rubber producers and processors and international NGOs. The last decade has seen the rubber industry balloon, but with producer countries running out of land for rubber production, rubber plantation companies have expanded onto new land with disastrous effect.

In South East Asia, large-scale rubber plantations have been one of the main drivers of land grabs and deforestation – a new industry reality that Global Witness exposed.

Ali Hines, of the Land and Environmental Defenders team at Global Witness said: “This collaborative effort is an exciting first step in tackling sustainability challenges in the rubber supply chain. The tyre companies involved represent two thirds of global tyre production so the potential to help communities and prevent damaging deforestation for real change across the international industry is huge.”

The Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber was borne out of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s Tyre Industry Project eighteen months ago, when Global Witness pushed hard for strong standards and a robust compliance mechanism to help tackle the horrifying evidence of abuses in the rubber supply chain exposed in investigations such as Rubber Barons.

A Greenpeace report released last year showed the problems surrounding the rubber industry still prevail, as it revealed the destruction of tropical forests and “land grabbing” in Cameroon on land owned by a subsidiary of Halcyon Agri, a global rubber giant which supplies to major global tyre brands including Michelin, Goodyear and Continental.

The platform comes on the back of a number of policy commitments made by the major brand tyre companies, including Michelin, Pirelli, Goodyear and Bridgestone. However, some of these policies fall short of what is necessary to protect intact forests and indigenous communities, making the need for robust standards from the platform all the more critical.

 “The platform presents a good opportunity for a ‘race to the top’ in companies’ due diligence standards to help eliminate land grabs and deforestation from the rubber supply chain”, said Hines.

“But companies shouldn’t wait until the platform standards are in place – and if they care about sustainability and human rights as much as they say they do – they should already be showcasing efforts in implementing their own sourcing policies on sustainable rubber. The platform can only succeed if company commitments translate into action.” 

* Download the report Rubber Barons here

* Global Witness


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