Rubber

Mighty Earth's Etelle Higonnet Named to France's National Order of Merit

French President Emmanuel Macron has named Mighty Earth Senior Campaign Director Etelle Higonnet (bio) a Chevalier of France’s Ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit), honoring her for her work to protect the environment. Mighty Earth Chairman Henry Waxman and CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statements celebrating the news.

Mighty Earth Chairman and former Congressman Henry Waxman:

"Etelle’s accomplishments – including transforming the cocoa industry and her pioneering legal work to drive major French and international companies to address serious human rights and environmental issues throughout their supply chains – are extraordinary. She is an inspiration to the team, a model for effective advocacy, and a truly wonderful person. I am so pleased that France has recognized her with this prestigious honor.

"At a time when too many governments are shirking their duty to protect the environment and address the climate crisis, Etelle is a force both of and for nature. I am honored to work alongside her and offer my sincere congratulations."

Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz:

"Etelle is a towering figure in the global movement to protect the world’s forests, solve the climate crisis, and advance fundamental human rights.

"Etelle has been able to drive the transformation of some of the biggest industries in the world – cocoa, rubber, soy, and more – because of the way she combines her irresistible reservoir of moral force with a charm that inspires organizations, governments, and even cynical corporate executives to want to change.

"It is fitting that she has been awarded the Order of Merit. Those who do this work best do it not for external recognition but to have an impact on the world, and that is triply true of Etelle. But that kind of selfless commitment deserves celebration, and we hope that Etelle will serve as an example that will inspire many more people to understand the extraordinary changes that a combination of commitment and intelligence can achieve."


Multi-Stakeholder Workshop Lays Groundwork for Growth of Sustainable Rubber

In September, Mighty Earth, Rainforest Alliance, einhorn ProductsEarthnet Foundation, and the Prince of Songkla University, hosted a workshop in Thailand which brought together 100 rubber farmers, traders, processors, NGOs, government representatives, and consumer brands that use rubber—like Goodyear tires and Converse shoes—to discuss one thing: sustainable natural rubber.

The workshop, Sustainable Natural Rubber: Pathways, Policies, and Partnerships, brought together stakeholders from across the rubber supply chain, who rarely interact directly, to share knowledge and learn about sustainable rubber and potential solutions to environmental, social, and economic challenges in the industry.

Throughout the week, actors from across the supply chain engaged in conversations about best practices, laid the groundwork for new partnerships, and discussed their sustainability journeys. These sessions included presentations and brainstorms about the cost of rubber, the opportunities in multi-stakeholder initiatives, the nuts and bolts of implementing a 'No Deforestation, No Exploitation' policy, and farming techniques that are best for people and planet.

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One key constituency that attended the workshop was rubber farmers, who are rarely included in rubber conferences. Farmers from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka shared their experiences using sustainable rubber practices on their farms and expressed their concerns about pricing and earning a living. Through these interactions, processors and traders were able to connect with the farmers who grow their rubber, and rubber end users learned about agroforestry and its ability to positively impact the both the environment and the lives of rubber farmers around the world.

The term agroforestry refers to the planting of multiple complementary crops on a farm to increase biodiversity and sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere, while providing additional sources of income or subsistence to farmers. Well-managed, diversified agroforestry systems can be a real solution for producing sustainable natural rubber and serve as an alternative to harmful practices that devastate the environment. It allows farmers to be protected against market fluctuations for a single commodity, helps store more carbon and rebuild the soil, increases species habitat, and reduces the use of pesticides. To educate participants about agroforestry, the workshop visited a few rubber farms that showcased rubber planted alongside other crops including pepper, fruit trees, and wood products. During the visit, farmers discussed the advantages associated with agroforestry systems, and participants were able to see the viability and productivity of these practices.

As demand for natural rubber increases in the coming years, widespread deforestation is likely to follow, as companies and landowners clear primary forest to plant more rubber trees on large expanses of plantations. This trend has held true across many commodities, with demand for palm oil, soy, and cattle threatening primary ecosystems, tropical forests, and the land of indigenous communities around the world. Meanwhile, farmers often still do not make a living income. Future expansion must be done sustainably and ethically. If farmers, traders, producers, and rubber end users push for responsible, fair rubber production and agroforestry on land already in use for rubber, the industry can sustain rubber production without new forest clearing or human rights abuses.

The workshop provided a forum for stakeholders to engage in open and honest dialogue about the challenges and opportunities that exist when pursuing sustainable growth. At the end of the 2.5 day event, participants created calls to action for the rubber industry and brainstormed about what each person, company, and sector of the supply chain could accomplish to ensure that all rubber is sold for a fair price and farmed sustainably and ethically for people and the planet. Calls to action from across sectors included learning more about and bringing transparency to their supply chains, rethinking producer trainings, piloting agroforestry on farms, creating networks to share knowledge among farmers, and engaging with actors across the supply chain from farm to market.

Moving forward, it will be important that all companies in the rubber industry set clear goals and commitments, work diligently and proactively to improve sustainability, and continue to collaborate with one another. With greater supply chain transparency and knowledge, along with restorative and environmentally sound on-farm practices, the rubber industry can ultimately create the systems needed to move forward and meet the global demand for rubber in a sustainable and responsible way.


Deforestation Continues Because Companies Aren't Trying

A new assessment released by Climate Focus has found that an area of tree cover the size of the United Kingdom was lost every year between 2014 and 2018. The assessment suggests that achieving the 2020 New York Declaration on Forests targets is now likely impossible. In response to the new report, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"Forests are burning in large measure because the big companies that committed to save them are not actually trying to do so. Companies like Ahold Delhaize, McDonald’s, and Mars are, despite all their pledges, continuing to do business on a vast scale with the very companies most responsible for this deforestation, such as Cargill and JBS. Not only are these companies directly financing deforestation, they have repeatedly lobbied governments to stop basic environmental protections. Nobody doing business with Cargill and JBS can credibly say they are concerned about deforestation.

"The tragedy of these findings is that they also demonstrate that success is possible. Companies can achieve dramatic progress when they actually make an effort. These same companies have largely, though imperfectly, enforced their no deforestation polices in the palm oil industry, and the results on the ground show it: deforestation for palm oil has declined from 1 million acres a year to 200,000 acres per year. This is, of course, still 200,000 acres of deforestation too many, but it also shows real progress is possible."

Additional resources:

 


Looking at Opportunities for Sustainability in Rubber

Sustainable Natural Rubber- Pathways, Policies and Partnerships is being held from 24-26 September 2019 hosted by Rainforest Alliance, Mighty Earth, Einhorn Products, Prince of Songkla University, and Earth Net Foundation, Thailand. RSVP here!

Over a decade ago, when I started working with coconut farmers in Ban Krut, Prachuab Khiri Khan, Thailand to develop an organic coconut value chain, many of these farmers also grew rubber. Despite the work on organic coconut, there was no interest or discussion about sustainable or organic rubber. It didn't seem to merit any interest at the time, in part because rubber is not eaten, and also because it needs to be processed with chemicals to yield rubber-based products such as tires and wetsuits.

Today looks very different than 10 years ago. Many key business stakeholders are beginning to understand the need for sustainability in rubber and are adapting their sourcing policies to address this in their supply chains. The newly established Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber is evidence of this and has brought together the largest number of actors from this sector so far. However, end users outside of the tire industry as well as rubber farmers and tappers remain missing voices in the platform. There are other mechanisms today for sustainable rubber as well. Thai organic coconut farmers who also grow rubber can have their latex certified as part of the “Fair Rubber” initiative. The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) has taken an early lead in sustainable rubber certification by actively working to engage market players.

These policies and platforms reflect a growing trend of leaders in sustainability looking deeper into their purchasing and supply chains—and this demand is coming from all sides. Consumers want to know more about the brands and products they choose: what it is, where it comes from, and the impact that it has on our planet and its people. Research shows that companies that demonstrate and communicate sustainability leadership in new areas have a clear market advantage, along with other benefits such as secure supply chain, engaged employees, and stakeholder confidence.

This growing interest in more sustainable agricultural and forestry supply chains represents a massive opportunity for positive impact on communities, local watersheds, biodiversity, and national economies. Across commodities, agriculture effects massive areas of land. For rubber alone, over 14 million hectares are cultivated, and there are millions of associated farmers and laborers.

Unless we can link investment in sustainable practices with demand from responsible markets, it is difficult to move toward sustainability or achieve certification. Farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, are on the economic edge, usually laden with substantial debts and facing the constant risks of poor yields and low prices, either of which could lead to failure and bankruptcy. Even without a significant shift in practices, achieving certification adds a cost in time, training, and resources. If major shifts in practices are also needed, this requires an even greater investment and effort.

Much of the initial focus has been on preventing additional deforestation, similar to efforts with oil palm, and these commitments are critically important. However, with low rubber prices in the market for several years now, pressure to clear more land for rubber has been reduced. As such, it is also critically important to look at the management of rubber lands and practices that support biodiversity, watershed and soil health, and carbon sequestration. This must be done alongside consideration of the economics of the supply chain and developing goals that ensure farmers realize financial stability and improved livelihoods through rubber cultivation, regardless of fluctuations in the market and price.

An interesting possibility for improving the ecology and economics of rubber cultivation for farmers lies in exploring how diversity and ecology can be brought back to the millions of hectares that have already been transformed to monoculture. Here we see a huge opportunity, as demonstrated in research from the Prince of Songkla University and the experience of many farmers in Thailand. Both show that rubber can be effectively grown in diverse agroforestry systems to deliver comparable latex yields and much better performance on ecological measures such as erosion, water sequestration, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and microclimate, while providing beneficial secondary yields of other commodities grown on the same land.  This should not be surprising at all, as the rubber tree’s (Hevea brasiliensis') native habitat is in the most diverse forests of the Amazon.

It is critical that we begin transforming the rubber sector and send signals from the market that there is a demand for sustainability managed rubber farms and latex. This is fundamental to the long-term viability of natural rubber overall, as it is apparent that rubber farmers, like many types of farmers, are an aging population. Many farmers do not want or expect any of their children to farm and tap rubber. This perspective is not overly surprising given the low returns and difficult work of rubber cultivation. In addition, the job of a rubber tapper is not always seen as reputable work. These factors can have a negative impact on the future supply of natural rubber, despite the expected growth in market demand for rubber. We have a massive opportunity to improve the livelihoods and labor conditions for rubber tappers, to introduce new methods of management and technologies to improve yields, and to make rubber tapping a more sought-after job.

In truth, we are just starting this exploration for natural rubber and many other solutions are still yet to be developed.   When the key actors and supporters of value chains from farmers to processors, from enterprises to final consumers, work together, and when government agencies and NGOs help facilitate the right environment and provide key support where needed, the potential for rapid and dramatic shifts towards sustainability or even the step beyond sustainability—to regeneration—is frankly amazing.

It is not clear where we will go, but in the next decade we can and will dramatically shift the natural rubber value chain and its impact on our planet to be far more sustainable. If you would like to join us in exploring this potential and discussing some of the solutions proposed at a multi-stakeholder dialogue taking place near some of the most interesting sustainable rubber farming innovation in Hat Yai, Thailand, please contact Margaret Kran-Annexstein ([email protected]).

Michael B. Commons,  Earth Net Foundation, Thailand

 


A Dialogue With Halcyon -- Encouraging Change in the Rubber Industry

A Dialogue With Halcyon -- Encouraging Change in the Rubber Industry

By Etelle Higonnet 

The world of rubber has been changing at an incredible pace.

Change starts at the bottom. In the last two years, one major tire company after another has agreed to transition from destructive practices that trash the planet to a new path towards deforestation-free rubber. The tire revolution has inspired some courageous action from a few car companies who have begun embracing deforestation-free rubber as well. Since tires account for more than 2/3 of the world’s rubber demand, these reforms have, in turn, influenced major supplier companies from Asia to Africa to take notice as the industry shifts around them.

Encouraged by this progress and eager to accelerate its spread, Mighty Earth decided to investigate the supply chain of the world’s biggest rubber supplier, Halcyon — which controls 12 percent of the planet’s rubber. Positive change from this company could be key to transforming the broader industry. It was an opportunity too good to ignore. And so, drawing from my experience in the country and in corporate negotiations to promote human rights and stop forest destruction, I began to plan a visit to Cameroon. Halcyon is a major player there – the third largest employer in the country, Halcyon controls two massive plantations called Sudcam and Hevecam which, together, make up the biggest rubber concession in the world.

Upon arrival, I was immediately met by our local partner, Victorien, from the organization Appui pour la Protection de l’Environnement et le Développement (APED), the leading local NGO working in the region where Halcyon has one of its gigantic rubber plantations, Hevecam. Diving straight into work, Victorien and I finished hammering out a detailed plan to investigate a number of communities that were affected by deforestation for rubber in and around Hevecam.

We wanted to hear the whole story, and aimed to talk with communities that had been recently affected as well as those that experienced land grabbing and abuses as many as four decades ago. We were also trying to ensure an even balance of indigenous and non-indigenous communities so that everybody’s voice would be reflected in our investigation.

Upon arrival at each community – whether we had traveled by well-paved highways, bumpy back roads, or hiked on forest trails to get there – we faced a similar refrain: a litany of abuses, often with the same core messages. “We are being poisoned,” they told us. “Help us get clean water. Our forests are gone. Everything we used to live off of is poisoned, dead, gone. What will we do now?” As we continued in our interviews we learned of ongoing extensive deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and destruction of culturally significant indigenous land at the hands of Hevecam.

In this bleakness, though, one ray of hope emerged: communities reported that in the last two years, Hevecam had become slightly more receptive to their grievances. As we began asking around, it became clear that Halcyon was open to positive dialogue. Here, then, was our opportunity to act.

Two months later, I returned to Cameroon with a draft report to share with key stakeholders. We wanted to ensure that we were uplifting the voices of local stakeholders, accurately portraying their concerns, and emphasizing the right problems and proposed solutions. With the help of Victorien, as well as Cameroon’s Goldman Prize winner and NGO leader Samuel Nguiffo, we sought feedback from a platform of 50 local NGOs working to curb deforestation, called the Plateforme Forets et Communautes. The next day, we gathered in the offices of Greenpeace Cameroon to meet with our hosts and indigenous leaders from different parts of the country. These leaders came together to share their experiences, advise us on how to improve our report, and shed light on what our work should emphasize going forward. Their courage, dynamism, and constructive spirit made this day of consultation a tremendous success.

The next morning, at the crack of dawn, Victorien and I drove from Yaounde to Douala with Armelle, a colleague of Samuel’s from the organization Centre pour l’Environnement et de Développement (CED), to meet with Halcyon representatives and start our negotiations. After two days, it turned out to be one of the most positive and encouraging corporate engagement meetings that I have ever experienced.

The corporate executives were open minded, thoughtful, well-informed, and fully willing to engage. In addition to finalizing the report based on feedback we had received from civil society, NGOs, indigenous leaders, and the company itself, we were also able to respectfully and collaboratively hammer out an agreement on next steps to address past environmental and social harms.

You can see the resulting agreement here.

From beginning to end, this experience reinforced the importance of trusting in the multifaceted expertise and professionalism of local NGOs as well as the invaluable knowledge of the affected indigenous leaders. It illustrated the importance of clear, honest, and open dialogue with corporations and the value of finding corporate interlocutors who are truly open to meaningful change.

Mighty Earth hosted a special Facebook Live event, ‘Convening Truth to Power: Cleaning Up the Rubber Supply Chain‘ where I discussed the power of investigations, working with local communities to speak truth to power, and the importance of this accomplishment in light of the current state of rubber sustainability.

Mighty Earth was honored to help highlight existing problems and to reach such a positive outcome by working with companies, NGOs and other stakeholders towards a solution. We’re hopeful this journey will help put rubber and tire companies on the right path, as they help realign an entire industry to protect forests, farmers, and regular folks.


Infographic: The Hidden Cost of Rubber

Rubber is everywhere around us: in the tires on your car or bike, in your shoes, in sporting goods, and much more. But did you know the rubber in your everyday products is likely causing massive environmental devastation?

This infographic shows how rubber production is hurting our planet and communities, from deforestation to climate change and land grabs. But the good news is, there are more sustainable alternatives that companies can choose. Check out the infographic below and sign our petition urging rubber-using companies to switch to sustainable rubber.

By signing this petition, you can help us end the devastation caused by industrial rubber production and tell companies that make products containing rubber to start using sustainable rubber!


Five reasons why your company should be using sustainable natural rubber

Five reasons why your company should be using sustainable natural rubber

June 2019

For companies that are committed to sustainability, moving toward using ethical rubber is the next big – and essential – step to making your products better for the planet. Conventional rubber harvesting causes environmental devastation on a massive scale. But the good news is: the rubber you use doesn’t have to.

Here are three reasons why industrial rubber harvesting can be harmful – and two reasons why this is the right moment for your company to shift to sustainable natural rubber:

Rubber Production Causes Deforestation


Deforestation for rubber is a problem across Africa and southeast Asia, and it’s accelerating. These areas are biodiversity hotspots, and the habitats of numerous endangered species, including tigers, gibbons, and elephants, are rapidly disappearing.

Rubber Production Can Destroy Communities


The rubber industry is destroying more than just our forests. Exploitative harvesting is wrecking communities in Southeast Asia and Africa, throwing families off the land where they’ve lived for generations and taking away their livelihoods, all to make way for more rubber farms.

Rubber Production Worsens Climate Change


The immediate harm caused by the rubber industry is serious – but the biggest impacts might not be felt for years to come, because deforestation is a major factor in climate change. At a moment when drastic measures are needed within the next decade to prevent the worst effects of climate change, many companies are stepping up to make a difference, but rubber is an often-overlooked part of the problem. It’s critical that we commit to ending the deforestation caused by rubber harvesting.

Consumers Want Sustainability


Sustainable natural rubber will do more than just allow your company to be part of protecting our planet and communities. As companies seek to distinguish themselves in increasingly competitive markets, surveys show that 66 percent of the general public and 73 percent of millennials will spend more if the product is produced sustainably. This means that being sustainable doesn’t have to come with harm to your bottom line; in fact, it can help your brand.

There is Still Time to Get Ahead of the Game


Fortunately, companies around the world are recognizing the benefits of and are beginning to commit to sustainable and ethical rubber. Just last year, six tire companies adopted “No Deforestation, No Exploitation” policies for their rubber supply chains (bringing the total number across the industry to eight) and many other brands, from condom companies to wetsuit manufacturers, committed to fair and sustainable rubber as well. Additionally, this March, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, a promising platform that has the opportunity to bring the whole industry towards sustainability.

Your company can start on this journey right now and be part of the global movement to protect forests, our climate, and human rights.

Want to join stakeholders across the natural rubber value chain for an open and honest discussion about the challenges and opportunities in the world of sustainable natural rubber- and learn how your company can commit to sustainability? Join us for a workshop on Sustainable Natural Rubber – Pathways, Policies and Partnerships, where you’ll have an opportunity to make connections and explore solutions to making rubber more sustainable. Companies at all stages of their sustainability journey are welcome!


Launch of New Global Platform Sets Stage for Rubber Industry to Address Environmental Damage

Mighty Earth joins Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber as Founding Member

SINGAPORE – In an effort to address deforestation, carbon emissions, and human rights abuses that have plagued the rubber industry for decades, major tire companies – with the collaboration of environmental advocacy organizations and other key stakeholders in the rubber industry – today launched the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR).

Environmental advocacy organization Mighty Earth, a Founding Member, welcomed the news.

“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 Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz. “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 rubber carbon bomb – as the country of 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 like 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.

“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,” said Hurowitz. “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.


Springing into Action on Rubber

As the World Rubber Summit kicks off in Singapore, we explain why Mighty Earth has become a Founding Member of the new Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR).

Perhaps the ‘game changer’ moment for the rubber industry came in mid-September 2016, when the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague quietly released a policy paper that seemed far removed from the dry world of natural rubber commerce.

In a shift from their traditional focus on war crimes, the ICC announced in its paper that it would start to prosecute on “crimes against humanity” resulting from large-scale environmental destruction and natural resource exploitation. This included explicit references to deforestation and the “illegal dispossession” of land, aka land-grabbing.

A complaint had recently been lodged at the ICC against the Government of Cambodia, which was accused of crimes against humanity associated with a massive wave of land grabbing over the previous decade that had led to the displacement of 770,000 Cambodians. In the vast majority of cases, local communities and indigenous peoples had been forcibly dispossessed of their traditional lands and forests in order to make way for large-scale commercial agriculture projects. The number one crop targeted for these schemes? Rubber.

The ICC’s announcement, coupled with the Cambodia case, fundamentally shifted the goalposts for rubber producers, processors, and buyers. This was no longer just about reputational risk. Chief executives of companies complicit in crimes related to environmental destruction and land grabbing could now be charged in front of a tribunal at the ICC. This was a shot across the bow of the rubber industry. Nobody wants to be in the company of war criminals such as Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milošević.

 

The Rubber Boom: 2000 and Beyond

Natural rubber is derived from tapping the sap (or latex) of the tree Hevea Brasiliensis, a species that grows only in the tropics. Originating in Brazil, it was introduced and propagated by the colonial powers in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Today, 90% of the world’s natural rubber comes from Asia. Most (70%) rubber is consumed by the tire industry, with other commercial uses including sports equipment, footwear, condoms, medical products and household items.

With a few exceptions, rubber has traditionally been grown mainly by smallholder farmers, or on modest estates, with a minor portion coming from large plantations either set up by the colonial administrations in African and Asian countries, or by public or private companies following independence.

However, over the past twenty years, this situation has begun to change dramatically, particularly in Southeast Asia. In countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, commercial agribusinesses have established large numbers of new industrial rubber plantations, decreasing the share of total production by smallholder growers. Countries such as Malaysia, which already had a higher concentration of plantations, also saw the number of such large-scale operations increase significantly since the year 2000.

As rubber prices steadily rose in the decade between 2002-2012 (particularly in relation to other tropical agricultural commodities), commercial investors looked to open up new regions for industrial rubber cultivation: with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar the prime targets. From around 2003 onwards, an estimated combined 1,489,500 hectares of land across these three countries was allocated for large scale rubber concessions—an area equal to the size of 19 New York Cities.

In all three countries, land for large scale commercial rubber was mostly allocated to investors based in Vietnam and China, with companies from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Korea playing a lesser role (along with some domestic investors). In Myanmar, military-associated companies have also been major beneficiaries of land deals for rubber.

 

Area under agriculture and tree-crop concessions in the Mekong: 1992-2017

Source: Journal of Land Use Science, The expansion of tree-based boom crops in mainland Southeast Asia: 2001 to 2014 , Kaspar Hurni & Jefferson Fox 2018

Source: MRLG, May 2018

Palm oil’s bad neighbor

In the decade since 2003, rubber investment in Mainland Southeast Asia (also known as the Mekong region) exceeded even that of palm oil. With both commodities, the upsurge in industrial plantation production has been plagued with social and environmental issues.

In the case of palm oil, these issues have gained widespread public exposure since the middle of the last decade due to successful campaigns to expose palm oil’s dark secrets. Campaigning has led to action across the industry from adoption of ‘No Deforestation, No Exploitation’ policies to a plethora of industry and multi-stakeholder efforts to resolve palm oil’s sustainability issues at scale. But the problems in the rubber sector have gone relatively unnoticed until recently, and has thus far the industry has done little to change its behavior.

The problems associated with industrial rubber production and processing are multiple, and severe. Problems plaguing the sector range from massive deforestation, to widespread land-grabbing and associated human rights abuses, to the destruction of huge swathes of endangered species’ critical habitats, contaminating groundwater and aggravating climate change. The list goes on.

Initiatives such as the International Rubber Study Group’s Sustainable Natural Rubber initiative (SNRi) have failed to make much of a dent in rubber’s sustainability footprint, and have largely excluded critical stakeholders, such as NGOs. Furthermore, the fact that natural rubber is less ubiquitous in consumer items than palm oil means that the sector has been able to fly relatively under the public radar. But now all of that is changing.

 

Reasons for optimism: from recognition, to response, to reaction

With any industry troubled by environmental, social or human rights issues, change does not necessarily happen overnight. In our experience, there is often a learning-to-action curve that moves along a trajectory from ignoring the problem, to angry denial, to grudging recognition, to engagement, and eventually to genuine response and action.

With some industries, this trajectory follows a painfully shallow curve that can drag out each phase for years. Examples of this include the oil and gas extractives sector, as well as the agrochemical, commercial seed, and meat production industries. Not surprisingly, these industries tend to have the worst image in the public eye.

In the case of the rubber sector, however, Mighty Earth is encouraged by signs that the industry is accelerating quickly along this trajectory. From a situation in March 2016, when not a single tire or rubber company had a sustainable natural rubber procurement policy, three years later we have seen nine of the world’s leading tire brands develop and adopt such a policy. Several of the world’s largest rubber companies have done likewise.

Rather than ignoring or denying the issues, companies in the tire and rubber sectors are engaging with us, paying careful attention to our research in the Mekong region and West Africa, seeking to understand the issues, and looking to take real action. And at this year’s World Rubber Summit, sustainability is high on the agenda. It appears the natural rubber industry is listening, and willing to change.

 

The Global Platform: a springboard for change?

Yet despite recent progress, a huge amount remains to be done. The social and environmental problems in the natural rubber sector are systemic, and won’t be resolved simply by engaging on a company-by-company basis.

That’s why Mighty Earth has decided to become a Founding Member of the new Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR). The Platform has been set up to enable multiple stakeholders in the rubber sector to collectively develop strategies for tackling critical social and environmental issues. This will involve rubber producers, tire companies, car manufacturers farmer representatives, and NGOs working collaboratively to devise solutions.

This is, for sure, a bold experiment, and the launch of the GPSNR has not been without teething issues. During the Platform’s inception, we had to fight hard to ensure that the governance structure provided civil society with an equal seat at the table and voice in decision-making. For many of the companies involved, it will be their first time working in a multi-stakeholder body alongside NGOs. It’s fair to say that some may still be a bit nervous!

However, despite these teething issues, we believe the Platform has the potential to be a springboard for transformative change in the rubber industry. Alongside our fellow NGO founding members, we want to work with companies across the natural rubber value chain to quickly address the sustainability issues facing the industry, monitor progress of implementation of policies already in place, and start changing practices on the ground.

Companies across the rubber value chain increasingly understand their wider responsibilities. Now is the time for them to use the Platform to turn that understanding into action.


World’s Largest Tire Manufacturers Roll Backwards on Sustainability

Today, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Tire Industry Project (TIP) launch its long-awaited Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) – but sustainability advocates claim it prohibits key stakeholders like non-governmental and civil society organizations or small scale farmers from having a seat at the table. No NGOs have joined despite claims from TIP that this platform is a “truly collaborative effort.”

“What the rubber industry needs is a platform that exemplifies leadership, and from the outset GPSNR is already failing,” said Kristin Urquiza, Deputy Director of Mighty Earth. “Deforestation for natural rubber is destroying the habitats of endangered animals, displacing people, and is a growing driver of climate change. In a true leadership position, GPSNR would be aligning industry to best practices for the climate, which is also good business.”

Deforestation in rubber-producing countries like Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Cameroon is rapidly increasing, and the tire industry accounts for 70% of rubber use around the world. Deforestation is responsible for approximately 20 % of global greenhouse gas emissions, is destroying the habitats of numerous endangered species – including tigers, gibbons, and elephants – and land grabbing associated with planting of rubber is kicking indigenous communities off the land they have lived on for generations.

Mighty Earth has advocated for tire companies like Bridgestone, Goodyear, Continental, and others to produce transformative rubber-buying polices – encouraging each company to follow an ambitious timeline to stop deforestation and exploitation in rubber producing countries as quickly as possible. To date, six companies have adopted some public policy, although most policies fall short of what experts agree is necessary to protect forests, wildlife, and communities. Advocates say this makes a Platform with teeth all the more critical.

Across commodities, the only platforms that have a track record of success are those that employ multi-stakeholder approaches. The Brazilian Soy Moratorium, for example, has sought to be collaborative and has taken steps to stop deforestation for soy by engaging all stakeholders and having accountability measures that allow industries to answer to a decision-making body that includes more than just industry members. Mighty Earth outlined key concerns in a letter sent to TIP earlier today. In contrast, the GPSNR risks being a greenwashing scheme that does little more than serve as a forum for discussion.

“As global temperatures continue to rise, people are demanding that their tires be made with rubber that is sustainably sourced,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director, Margaret Kran-Annexstein. “The WBCSD has missed an opportunity but in the coming months could still make their Platform something to celebrate. The need for sustainable solutions to meet the global demand for natural rubber remains urgent, and we are hopeful that WBCSD will rise to the occasion.”

 


Continental and Yokohama Jump on the Almost-Sustainable Rubber Bandwagon

One week before the launch of a new Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber hatched by tire companies and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), two big players, Continental and Yokohama, have released their own sustainable rubber purchasing policies. While each policy has its strengths, both fall short of the commitments needed to guarantee consumers that the rubber in their tires will be untainted by tropical forest destruction, wildlife habitat loss or human rights violations.

The harvesting of natural rubber is a growing cause of deforestation across southeast Asia and Africa. In order to make way for rubber plantations, primary forests are destroyed and animals like tigers, elephants, and gibbons are being wiped out. At the same time, communities are being driven off the land they have lived on for generations without consent or even notice.

The need for sustainable solutions to meet the rising global demand for natural rubber is urgent. Consumers are demanding that their tires are made with rubber that is ethical and that protects critical forests; and tire companies are taking note. In the last year, industry leaders like Michelin, Bridgestone, Goodyear, and Pirelli have all adopted sustainable natural rubber policies and this week, Continental and Yokohama joined them.

While the adoption of sustainable natural rubber policies is a step in the right direction, both Continental and Yokohama have put forward policies that fall short. Both have their merits: for example, both companies describe the hazards of deforestation and burning of carbon-rich peatlands. Continental includes strong language that demands that human rights are respected and Yokohama insists that their suppliers do not engage in land-grabbing.

However, neither company addresses the importance of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and, critically, both lack timelines for implementation and neglect to include consequences that would ensure that these good-sounding standards would be upheld by suppliers.  Furthermore, both lack a credible and concrete roadmap for ensuring full traceability within their rubber supply chains. Unfortunately, this means that these policies could just be words on paper rather than real agents of change.

The announcement of these two policies back-to-back, a few days before the launch of the Global Platform, is highly significant.  The Platform is being setting up develop sustainability standards for the entire rubber industry. But as currently structured, this Platform will not hold water either. It leaves out crucial stakeholders like NGOs and small-scale farmers from its decision-making body, and looks set to become nothing more than an industry talk-shop. With the majority of tire and rubber companies’ still lacking their own sustainable rubber policies, the Global Platform must have more than a close cabal of industry peers in control if it is to avoid accusations of greenwashing and deliver the transformative standards needed.

Mighty Earth has been working with tire companies to produce progressive rubber buying policies, and have encouraged each to follow an ambitious timeline to stop the havoc being wreaked by rubber as quickly as possible. But with most companies still falling short of what is necessary, we need companies come together in an equitable partnership with civil society, to construct a Platform that can be trusted to develop the standards to badly needed to protect forests, wildlife, and communities from the ravishes of rubber.


Michelin’s Greenwashing Must End. It’s Time for Sustainable Rubber Production.

Rubber harvesting is causing devastation on a massive scale. In Southeast Asia and Africa, high demand and unsustainable practices are causing forests to rapidly disappear. One industry accounts for 70% of rubber use around the world: the tire industry. And as one of the largest tire brands in the world, Michelin should be leading the charge to drive greener practices in the industry. But where the rubber hits the road, Michelin is falling short.

The need for a solution is dire. Deforestation in rubber-producing countries like Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Cameroon is among the most severe in the world, and it’s accelerating. These areas are biodiversity hotspots, and rubber harvesting is destroying the habitats of numerous endangered species, including tigers, gibbons, and elephants. Nor are animals the only ones losing their homes. Exploitative harvesting is wrecking communities in these areas and throwing families off the land where they’ve lived for generations, all to make way for more rubber farms.

But the biggest impacts might not be felt for years to come, because deforestation is a major factor in climate change. At a moment when the IPCC has warned that drastic measures are needed within the next decade to prevent the worst effects of climate change, it’s critical that the rubber industry commit to ending deforestation.

Executives within the tire industry are aware of the scale of the problem. Several major tire companies, including Michelin, have announced sustainability policies, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is working with the industry to develop a Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber.

But whether this will lead to industry-wide improvements that dramatically reduce environmental impacts and land-grabbing remains in doubt. The soon-to-be launched Platform has deliberately excluded non-industry voices from its highest decision making body.  As an initiative controlled by the leading tire companies, including Michelin, this sends a worrying signal that the Platform could become little more than a talk shop, with little effect on this urgent problem.

Michelin has long prided itself on being a leader in the industry, and has taken significant steps with its own sustainability policies. It holds a significant market share, and its brand is iconic among consumers.  But unless Michelin shows the courage and leadership to stand up for a genuinely inclusive process to stop the devastation caused by rubber, its Michelin Man mascot could become synonymous with tropical forest destruction and devastated communities.

Mighty Earth, along with our partners and thousands of concerned consumers across the country, are urging Michelin to commit to sustainability. They must reject greenwashing, invite the full and equal participation of civil society experts within the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, and lead the tire industry to truly sustainable practices. Will Michelin do the right thing?


A Fork in the Road for the Rubber Industry? 

By the shores of Lake Geneva, a modern office building houses a little-known organization that could play a huge part in the fate of the world’s tropical forests.  

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led organization of over 200 large companies, and describes itself as “the leading voice of business for sustainability”.[i] 

In 2005, CEOs of 11 leading tire manufactures (representing 65% of the world’s tire production) launched the Tire Industry Project under the WBCSD umbrella, in order to “identify and offer solutions to sustainability challenges associated with the life cycle of tires”.[ii]  

The work of TIP has, to date, been unspectacular. Since launching, the Project has developed initiatives to study the effects of tire road wear and particle emissions, and to improve innovations around the recycling, re-use and recovery of end-of-life tires. 

But the Project has remained strangely silent on what is arguably its biggest sustainability challenge: the massive environmental and social impacts caused by tire industry’s demand for rubber. 

Natural rubber is a key component within tires, and is produced by ‘tapping’ the sap (latex) from a particular tree species called havea brasilienis, or rubber tree. The tire industry consumes around 60% of the world’s natural rubber, with the five largest company's accounting for the lion's share of this demand.  

Often grown on vast plantation, the expansion of rubber production over recent years has been driving massive deforestation in some of the world's most important biodiversity 'hotspots', particularly in Southeast Asia. This expansion has led to the destruction of crucial wildlife habitats for species such as tigers, elephants and gibbons. It has also often come at the expense of local communities in forested areas, with thousands of families thrown off of their land in Laos, Cambodia [iii] and Myanmar in order to make way for rubber farms. 

In order to save the forests and protect vulnerable communities, tire manufacturers need to move rapidly towards fully sustainable natural rubber procurement. And time is running out. 

After a slow start, several of companies have started to take action. In the summer of 2016, Michelin became the first major tire company to introduce a sustainable natural rubber procurement policy. Last autumn, Pirelli followed suit. Earlier this year, the world's leading tire manufacturer Bridgestone released its own version and in late April Goodyear followed suit. 

But the situation with the world's remaining tropical forests – and of the people and wildlife that depend on them – remains critical. Growing demand for timber and tropical commodities such as palm oil, soya, cocoa and rubber has sparked companies, governments and civil society groups like Mighty Earth to work together to identify best-practices for ensuring forests are kept intact and used sustainably. 

Yet while steps towards sustainability have been achieved for some of these commodities, rubber remains the outlier. Schemes such as the International Rubber Study Group’s ‘Sustainable Natural Rubber initiative’ have been token gestures, and have failed to stop widespread deforestation, habitat destruction and land grabbing by rubber companies. Thus, despite the recent progress of Michelin, Pirelli and Bridgestone, the tire industry as a whole is a long way off securing a fully sustainable natural rubber supply chain.  

Now, at last, the industry might be about to shift gears. Within the shiny WBCSD offices in Geneva, the 11 CEOs within the Tire Industry Project are reportedly due to announce a new initiative on sustainable natural rubber this spring. 

The question is, what will this process look like?  

Business-led sustainability initiatives on tropical commodities can work, but history has taught us that this is only the case where such initiatives are inclusive of other stakeholders, transparent in their operations, and structured to provide an equal voice to both business and civil society.  

NGOs can offer expertise based on years of working on forest protection, land rights and commodity supply chain transparency. Where industry and civil society work together to jointly identify problems and devise solutions to sustainability challenges relating to agricultural commodities, long-lasting progressive change can occur swiftly. Examples such as the Brazil Soy Moratorium and the Seafood Task Force show that this approach works.  

That’s why Mighty Earth has written to TIP, urging its Director to make sure their sustainable natural rubber project is made open and inclusive. 

TIP could show much-needed leadership in developing a ‘gold standard’ for sustainable natural rubber. But it should be careful not to assume that progressive change can be achieved by the tire industry alone. TIP needs to bring stakeholders from international NGOs – as well as local organisations in rubber-producing countries working with people affected by rubber plantations – into the process from the outset.   

That is where the rubber will hit the road.  

 

Sources

[i] https://www.wbcsd.org/

[ii] https://www.wbcsd.org/Projects/Tire-Industry-Project 

[iii] https://www.globalwitness.org/campaigns/land-deals/rubberbarons/ 

 

 


Tire Monster Tour Launches in Goodyear's Home State of Ohio 

On the heels of Goodyear Tire’s announcement of a natural rubber procurement policy that experts are concerned is not strong enough to hold suppliers accountable, Mighty Earth unveils the Tire Monster — a ten-foot tall, 500-pound sculpture made of discarded tires. The Tire Monster will be kicking off its world tour in Ohio, the home of Goodyear Tire, to raise awareness and promote action to stop deforestation and human rights abuses related to producing natural rubber. The Tire Monster tour also launches on the eve of the World Rubber Summit, where global rubber industry leaders will convene in Sri Lanka.

Mighty Earth's new investigation found links between Goodyear and rubber suppliers driving deforestation in Southeast Asia and West Africa. Its new policy does not mention how it will deal with ongoing non-compliant suppliers found to be driving environmental destruction and human rights abuses.

“While we welcome Goodyear’s announcement, its policy leaves a lot of key questions unanswered. In contrast to the commitments of the other leading tire companies, Goodyear’s policy fails to detail how it will address suppliers that have been proven to be driving destructive practices,” said Margaret Kran-Annexstein, Campaign Director for Mighty Earth. “People are demanding that Goodyear address its problematic suppliers immediately.”

The tire industry accounts for at least 70 percent of global natural rubber consumption with the top five brands – Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear, Continental, and Pirelli – accounting for about half of the industry’s consumption. Although Goodyear’s policy is not as strong as that of the other companies’, it joins Michelin, Pirelli and Bridgestone in announcing a "No Deforestation, No Exploitation" policy for its supply chain. As the tide turns towards deforestation-free rubber, Continental is the final of the top five companies that has yet to announce a sustainability policy.

The Tire Monster is planning to make the following tour stops this week:  

  • Tuesday, May 1st in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Wednesday, May 2nd in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Thursday, May 3rd in Akron, Ohio  

 He can be followed on social media as he tours across Ohio, here: 

 


Goodyear’s New Deforestation-Free Rubber Policy Falls Short

 

With the recent release of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s new Natural Rubber Procurement Policy, experts express concern that this policy may not be strong enough to hold the world’s third-largest tire company’s current suppliers accountable for addressing deforestation, land grabbing, and human rights abuse.

The tire industry accounts for more than 70 percent of global rubber consumption and is a major driver of deforestation, which is responsible for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In response to public pressure, Goodyear competitors Michelin, Pirelli, and Bridgestone have already rolled out sustainability policies that have strong criteria regarding procurement and consequences for non-compliant suppliers, which advocates expect to have greater impact than Goodyear’s.

Goodyear’s policy underscores a commitment to following several industry-accepted standards for agriculture free of human rights abuse and deforestation. However, it lacks policy points for monitoring implementation, transparency of suppliers, termination of non-compliant suppliers, forest restoration, banning of hazardous chemicals as prohibited by Rotterdam Convention, a full ban on burning and development on peatland, and additional clarification on labor rights protections.

A new investigation by Mighty Earth also found that at least two of Goodyear’s major current suppliers—Dau Tieng and Hévécam—have been linked to deforestation in biodiversity hotspots and human rights abuses at their rubber plantations in Cambodia and Cameroon. According to the report, Dau Tieng Rubber Corporation has skirted laws on maximum land holding sizes, illegal logging, and habitat destruction in sensitive forest areas. The company has also used land grabs, forced evictions, and excessive force to secure plantations. Hévécam has been in conflict with indigenous groups, who allege that the company has violated their customary land rights in Southern Cameroon.

“We welcome this policy but it's up to Goodyear to show that it has teeth,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Kristin Urquiza. “Suppliers that want to sell rubber need to know that engaging in deforestation or land grabbing means losing access to international markets. As written, the policy is unclear about long-term consequences of non-compliance such as a commitment to terminating the relationship with bad suppliers.”

Goodyear’s policy also comes shortly before the World Rubber Summit, where the World Business Council on Sustainable Development’s Tire Industry Project (TIP) is set to meet to discuss industry-wide action on sustainable natural rubber. Based on their experience improving other major industry supply chains like soy and seafood—and the ineffectiveness of the closed-door International Rubber Study Group’s Sustainable Natural Rubber initiative—Mighty Earth and other NGOs have already sent letters calling on the TIP to be inclusive of civil society and NGO perspective to help provide guidance towards developing a joint industry mechanism to address deforestation for rubber.

“The entire tire and rubber industries need to work together to defuse this rubber carbon bomb while there are still forests left to save,” said Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz. “By including NGOs and real accountability mechanisms, other agricultural commodities, like soy, have made significant strides towards breaking the link between agricultural expansion and deforestation. We hope to see rubber follow their lead.”


The Tire Monster

Coming soon to America, there will be a tire monster roaming the streets, and he’s livid about deforestation for rubber.

The Tire Monster is making his way from Southeast Asia where, until now, he has fed on primary forests and rubber sap from industrial plantations producing rubber for tires to grow big and strong. At a towering 10 feet tall and 500 pounds, he’s engorged himself.. With tropical forests dwindling, soon there will be nothing left to feed on, so the monster is switching up his diet and heading first to Ohio, the home of the U.S.’s largest tire company, Goodyear Tires, to rally support for deforestation-free tires with his new friends at Mighty Earth.

Rubber is Driving Massive Deforestation

Rubber production is a growing driver of deforestation across West Africa and Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, it has long been industry norm to produce rubber in a way that destroys forests and violates human rights.

The natural rubber that the tire industry uses to manufacture its tires endangers majestic endemic wildlife , and forces indigenous people off of the lands they’ve lived on for generations. With our climate, vital ecosystems, and human rights at stake, it is essential that the tire industry— as one of the major consumers of rubber worldwide — breaks the link between deforestation and natural rubber production.

How Can I Help?

Sign the petition to ask major tire makers to stop destroying the Mekong and African forests for rubber production. Follow the Tire Monster on his tour as he rallies Ohioans to call on Goodyear Tires to hold its current suppliers accountable for addressing deforestation, land grabbing, and human rights abuse.


Victory! Bridgestone, World’s Largest Tire & Rubber Company, Announces End to Deforestation, Land Grabbing

Today, Bridgestone Tires, the world’s largest tire and rubber company, released a new Global Sustainable Procurement Policy that commits to protecting rainforests that are critical habitat for wildlife like gibbons, orangutans, tigers, and elephants, as well as addressing labor and human rights abuses. This announcement makes Bridgestone the third major tire company to commit to a “No Deforestation, No Exploitation” policy.

“With Bridgestone’s announcement, deforestation-free rubber production is becoming the standard market expectation,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Kristin Urquiza. “Companies that want to sell rubber should know that engaging in deforestation or land grabbing means losing access to international markets. We’re seeing a total revolution in the tire and rubber industries happen before our eyes.

“Bridgestone is showing it’s serious about conservation and human rights by requiring suppliers to protect High Carbon Stock and High Conservation Value lands and respect the right of local communities to provide Free, Prior and Informed Consent about the use of their land. Bridgestone’s use of the credible High Carbon Stock Approach as its sustainability standard shows suppliers the company means business when it comes to sustainability.

“Now, Bridgestone needs to hold true to its mission to be the clear and absolute leader, or dan-totsu, by making this policy’s implementation plans and timeline public, including their plans to restore forests to mitigate past damage and ban hazardous pesticides.

“Bridgestone has already shown it has the capacity for conservation leadership through its donation of the 10,000-acre Centennial Wilderness Area to the State of Tennessee; it now needs to extend this model of positive environmental stewardship to landscapes in Southeast Asia and West Africa where it is desperately needed.”

Bridgestone’s policy will immediately have a significant impact; the company (sometimes operating through the Firestone brand) directly operates plantations across Southeast Asia and Africa, and sources rubber from suppliers who affect millions more acres. We are grateful to the Arcus Foundation and the Norwegian International Climate & Forest Initiative for making this campaign possible.

Demand for natural rubber is driven by the production of tires for the more than one billion vehicles – commercial, passenger, and aircraft – that operate around the globe. Much of the expansion of natural rubber plantations to meet rising global demand has come from extremely rapid deforestation in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar, home to endangered species like gibbons, tigers, and elephants. From 2001-2014, tree cover loss in Cambodia accelerated faster than any country in the world, according to data from the World Resources’ Institute Global Forest Watch. Indonesia, a global deforestation hotspot, is the world’s largest rubber producer, and Bridgestone/Firestone operates the world’s largest rubber plantation in Liberia, spanning more than a million acres.

The tire industry accounts for at least 70 percent of global natural rubber consumption with the top five brands - Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear, Continental, and Pirelli – accounting for about half of the industry’s consumption. Michelin has previously adopted a strong No Deforestation policy and Pirelli recently announced a sustainable rubber policy. Goodyear and Continental need to join the race towards a responsible tire industry while there are still forests left to save. We’ve got to wonder what these companies have to hide.

“There’s a lot at stake,” Urquiza said. “By some estimates, deforestation for rubber between now and 2024 could release the same amount of carbon dioxide as the country of India does annually.

“The entire tire and rubber industries need to defuse this rubber carbon bomb. In order to make sure practices actually change on the ground, there needs to be industry-wide action against deforestation. We look forward to working with relevant stakeholders to adapt the best of these systems to the rubber industry to immediately eliminate deforestation and land grabbing.”

“Many of the world’s largest companies have committed to eliminate tropical deforestation by 2020,” said Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz. “With the rubber industry moving towards action, laggards like the soy industry should catch up.”


Pirelli Tires Commits to Deforestation Free Rubber

Tire Leader Joins Michelin – World Waits for Bridgestone, Continental, and Goodyear

Global tire giant Pirelli, a major user of natural rubber, has released a sustainable rubber policy that promises to protect people and forests by banning deforestation, land grabbing, and labor abuse.

“Pirelli’s announcement is good news for gibbons, tigers, and elephants whose habitat has been destroyed by rapidly expanding rubber plantations,” said Mighty Earth Campaign Director Kristin Urquiza.  “When buying tires, people want to think about performance, safety, and fuel economy, not destruction of wildlife habitat and human rights abuse.”

Demand for natural rubber is driven by the production of tires for the more than one billion vehicles – commercial, passenger, and aircraft – that operate around the globe. Much of the expansion of natural rubber plantations to meet rising global demand has come from extremely rapid deforestation in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and, Myanmar.  From 2001-2014, tree cover loss in Cambodia accelerated faster than any country in the world, according to data from the World Resources’ Institute Global Forest Watch.

The tire industry accounts for at least 70 percent of global natural rubber consumption with the top five brands - Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear, Continental, and Pirelli – accounting for about half of the industry’s consumption. Michelin had previously adopted a strong No Deforestation policy.

“Bridgestone, Continental, and Goodyear need to join the race towards a responsible tire industry while there are still forests left to save,” Urquiza said. “We hope to work with the company and other civil society partners to increase the clarity of its policy, and ensure that its suppliers implement it right away.”

There’s a lot at stake. Loss of forests account for approximately 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and is a major contributor to climate change. By some estimates, the expansion of deforestation for rubber between now and 2024 could release the same amount of carbon dioxide – a major rubber carbon bomb – as the country of India does annually.

The Pirelli policy marks the third policy of its type from tire producers. In 2016 Michelin, a French tire producer, announced a sourcing policy. And earlier this year Luxembourg Socfin Group announced its own. Mighty Earth is calling on all major tire companies to pass similar policies.

 

Image credit: Peter Martin

 

 


Michelin Isn’t Reinventing the Wheel, It’s Reinventing the Rubber Supply Chain

Public Radio International’s The World

Scientists estimate that a forest the size of Indiana will be cut down to plant rubber trees over the next eight years. That’s creating biological deserts, driving some of our favorite exotic animals toward extinction…. So, that’s the bad news. Here’s the good: Michelin, the world’s largest buyer of natural rubber, says the deforestation has to stop and it’s pledging to go green. It’s still early, a work in progress, but environmental groups are praising Michelin. Higonnet says Michelin’s shift in tone is huge. Listen to the rest.