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China Eco Tales: Stretching the conversation about sustainable natural rubber

Posted Date: Friday 6 December 2019    

Nobody would raise an eyebrow if tyre manufacturers are hosting a conference to push for a sustainable and ethical rubber industry. After all, three thirds of global natural rubber are produced to make car, truck and plane tyres, and the manufacturers helped found the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber.

But it was amusing that the “Sustainable Natural Rubber: Pathways, Policies and Partnerships” conference held in September was co-organised by a German condom company. The company was quite successful in getting sustainably produced rubber into the market. In the keynote presentation, the company’s representative concluded that “no one is too small to make a difference” and even distributed their products afterwards.

The demand for natural rubber is decimating forests, putting wildlife and critical ecosystem services at risk, thus it is important that big guns and rising players in the rubber value chain – from tyre companies, car companies, rubber processors, shoe brands, farmers, research institutions and conservation NGOs – to come together to find a solution. Most of the conference participants are founding members of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber for a fair, equitable and environmentally sound natural rubber value chain.  And it is fitting for the conference to be held in Thailand where most of the world’s natural rubber is produced (35 per cent).