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Supply Chain
New Platform to Help Rubber Industry Address Environmental Damage

Rubber plantations are a growing driver of deforestation worldwide, particularly in Southeast Asia and Western Africa. Mighty Earth joins Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber as founding member.

In an effort to address the rampant deforestation, carbon emissions and human rights abuses that have plagued the rubber industry for decades, major tire companies are now collaborating with environmental advocacy organizations and other key stakeholders in the rubber industry to launch the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR).

“It took a little while to get to the starting line, but we’re thrilled that the major tire companies are now racing to address deforestation and land grabbing in their supply chains,” said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty Earth, a founding member of the GPSNR. “The most urgent task for the GPSNR is to establish a working platform this year to monitor their entire supply chains for land clearance and human rights issues.”

A similar platform in the Brazilian soy industry virtually eliminated deforestation for soy in the Brazilian Amazon within three years, and has maintained it at near-zero levels for more than a decade.

Rubber plantations are a growing driver of deforestation worldwide, particularly in Southeast Asia and Western Africa. Deforestation is a major driver of climate change and is responsible for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And by some estimates, the expansion of deforestation for rubber between now and 2024 could release the same amount of carbon dioxide — a major byproduct of rubber production – as India does annually. Industrial rubber cultivation also destroys the habitats of endangered animals including tigers, gibbons and elephants.

Industrial plantations also often violate the rights of forest-dwelling communities and indigenous peoples. Forced displacement, land grabbing, and human rights abuses frequently accompany the establishment of rubber plantations in areas of tropical forest.

The GPSNR was designed to address these issues. Initial plans would have created an industry-dominated forum, but rubber companies and their customers have responded to calls to create a more inclusive platform. As a result, the GPSNR was expanded to give an equal voice to NGOs as well as other stakeholders, and has created a path forward to ultimately include representation for smallholders as well.

“Swift action is urgently needed,” said Kristin Urquiza, Senior Campaign Director at Mighty Earth. “Fortunately, the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber presents an opportunity to take meaningful, industry-wide steps to solve this crisis and help eliminate deforestation and human rights abuses from the global rubber supply chain.”

Mighty Earth has documented the impact of the rubber industry on the natural environment and human rights in Southeast Asia, and called on tire companies including Bridgestone, Goodyear, Continental, Michelin and Pirelli to produce transformative rubber-buying policies that will stop deforestation and exploitation in rubber-producing countries as quickly as possible. To date, at least nine companies have adopted policies, although most policies have gaps — making the success of the GPSNR even more critical.

While automakers including Ford and GM, and tire companies including Bridgestone, Cooper and Hankook are working to improve tire sustainability in various ways, the industry is still rife with issues, which the organizations behind GPSNR are counting on it to address.

“With the tire industry’s launch of this platform, the goal of eliminating commodity-driven deforestation by 2020 is within reach for rubber, cocoa, palm oil, and paper,” Hurowitz said. “The spotlight now falls on the soy industry, which has failed to extend its own success from the Brazilian Amazon to the other hotbeds of deforestation across South America, because of the bitter resistance of rogue traders like Bunge.”