London – Global natural rubber (NR) production lacks the transparency and sustainability commitments needed to protect people and wildlife, the Zoological Society of London has found.
In a new analysis, the conservation charity gave an average rating of just 35% to a group of 15 major NR suppliers assessed using its sustainability policy transparency toolkit (SPOTT).
The producer and processor companies represent 13.5% of the global land used by the sector and were assessed against 120 transparency indicators, London-based ZSL reported 26 Nov.
“This is not dissimilar to other industries, such as palm oil, and echoes the call from many conservation organisations that more must be done,” the study authors noted.
Around 85% of global NR supply is produced by local smallholders who cannot afford the costs of moving towards more sustainable practices, ZSL further pointed out.
Companies must “not only focus on the sustainability of their own operations, but also support all their suppliers – including smallholders,” said Eszter Wainwright-Deri, ZSL’s SPOTT research coordinator.
According to Wainwright-Deri, while 14 companies were aware of this issue, only four provided any information or evidence of how they’re currently engaging with or assessing their suppliers.
“This is vital if we want to make sure the natural rubber sector as a whole – including smallholders – becomes more sustainable,” she added.
The report further found that most companies are failing to report on their implementation of environmental, social or governance (ESG) policies – despite commitments to do so. While 11 out of the 15 companies have committed to conserving biodiversity, only four identify species of conservation concern and seven provide examples of species or habitat conservation management, found ZSL.
Identifying endangered species on company land is often the first step to understanding how to better protect them, according to the London-based charity.
On a better note, members of the recently founded Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) performed better in the ZSL assessment.
GPSNR is a multi-stakeholder platform, which includes car makers, tire manufacturers and NR processors, established to improve the sustainability of natural rubber.
According to the analysis, five GPSNR-linked companies in group of 15 in the study scored an average of 48.7% compared to 27.8% for non-GPSNR member companies.
“The GPSNR is working to improve respect for human rights, prevent land-grabbing and deforestation,” said Stefano Savi, director of GPSNR commenting on the findings of the report.
The platform, added Savi, is also working to “protect biodiversity and water resources, improve yields, and increase supply chain transparency and traceability.”