That’s why WWF has set an ambitious goal of transforming the global rubber market. Rubber can and should be produced without clearing natural forests. When done responsibly, rubber production increases biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation. It also avoids human and labor rights violations, as well as land grabs.
Change at the corporate level
WWF promotes sustainable natural rubber at two levels—with the companies that use rubber and the producers who grow rubber. At the company level, WWF’s priority is supporting the adoption and implementation of commitments to produce, use or source sustainable natural rubber from tire makers, automakers, rubber producers/processors, fleet operators, airlines and non-tire maker rubber buyers (e.g., shoe companies, retailers and rubber glove manufacturers). Tire manufacturers are particularly important because they buy over 70% of the world’s rubber and, therefore, have the financial power to influence production. Automobile makers also are key; a single company often buys 50 million new tires every year. With the number of vehicles predicted to double globally by 2050, business as usual for companies that make or use tires would have a dramatic impact on the world’s forests and human rights.
Michelin—the world’s largest buyer of natural rubber and second largest tire manufacturer—was the first tire maker to commit to responsible rubber sourcing. In June 2016, Michelin partnered with WWF and announced a new sourcing policy related to natural rubber. Tire makers Pirelli, Bridgestone, Goodyear, Sumitomo, Continental, Yokohama, Hankook and Toyo Tires have followed suit. Automakers also are showing leadership. In May 2017, General Motors, the world’s third-largest automaker, became the first automaker to announce its intent to commit to responsible rubber sourcing. BMW and Toyota Motor Corporation (which, in 2016, entered into a five-year agreement with WWF that focuses on increasing the sustainability of natural resources, including natural rubber) have since done the same. Four companies have also committed to producing sustainable natural rubber: Barito, Socfin, Olam and Halcyon Agri.
Many of these companies—along with WWF, several other nonprofit organizations and some rubber traders and processors—are founding members of a new platform called the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber that strives to increase the supply and uptake of sustainable natural rubber in the global marketplace. Members of the platform will develop sustainable natural rubber standards, as well as mechanisms for—and guidance on—the implementation, monitoring and verification of sustainable natural rubber commitments from companies. WWF was elected as a member of the platform’s Executive Committee during the first General Assembly meeting for the platform, held in Singapore in March 2019.