How to ensure sustainable, EUDR-compliant rubber
Sustainable Rubber Sourcing
- Rubber - both synthetic and natural - is a key commodity in everything from automotive and aircraft parts to the sole of your favorite sneakers. However, natural rubber supply chains are often riddled with unsustainable practices from deforestation to unfair farmer wages.
- Rubber is one of the seven commodities affected by the EU deforestation-free regulation, which requires companies to ensure and prove that their rubber supply chains don’t contribute to deforestation.
- Many companies are scrambling to get the visibility and data they need from their rubber supply chains and farms in order to track, monitor, and report on EUDR compliance. Traceability platforms such as BanQu can be a great solution to ensure EUDR-compliant, sustainable rubber.
Natural vs. Synthetic Rubber
How natural & synthetic rubber is made.
Natural rubber is typically grown and cultivated in Southeast Asia (e.g., Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and Vietnam), sourced from a rubber tree. In fact, around 89-90% of the world’s rubber originates from this region, with the rest coming from tropical portions of LATAM and Africa. Rubber trees are planted and take four to seven years to grow. Once the tree is the right height, width, and bark thickness, farmers will tap the tree to gather the milky sap that contains the latex required to produce rubber.
Synthetic rubber, on the other hand, is produced artificially using oil or coal that is refined down and mixed with natural gas to create monomers (e.g., styrene or isoprene). These monomers are then polymerized to create rubber. However, depending on the exact type of synthetic rubber needed, the process and chemicals used will vary.
Top uses of natural & synthetic rubber.
Ultimately, the type of rubber that is “best” depends on its use. And many rubber products - such as tires - can use a combination of natural and synthetic rubber in production. Typically, rubber’s primary use cases include tires (of bikes, airplanes, cars, etc…), with secondary use cases including medical equipment, shoes, mattresses, and - of course - rubber bands.
Generally, synthetic rubber can be better for temperature, aging, and abrasion resistance, while natural rubber can be better for strong and heat-resistant products that may require more flexibility, such as latex gloves.
Sustainability concerns of natural & synthetic rubber.
Natural rubber has historically been seen as more eco-friendly than its synthetic counterpart, especially when responsibly sourced. However, in recent years as the world has grown more sustainability-aware, many environmental and social issues have come to light, namely: deforestation, child labor, and indigenous land stealing.
Additionally, because the natural rubber production process is so lengthy, securing supply to meet demand at a semi-consistent price is a game of roulette. Price and supply volatility is extremely high and unpredictable in the natural rubber industry.
While synthetic rubber doesn’t face the same social concerns, it does face a similar level of environmental issues. Synthetic rubber production requires lots of oil, natural gas, and energy, making its greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint high — about 432.77 grams of CO2e is emitted for every 1 kg of oil produced.
How To Achieve a Sustainable, EUDR-Compliant Rubber Supply Chain
While the conversation around sustainable rubber is not new, regulatory requirements for its sustainability are. The EU deforestation-free law (EUDR) requires that companies operating within the EU that source any of seven commodities - rubber, coffee, cocoa, soy, wood, palm oil, beef/leather - must prove that their sourcing didn’t contribute to deforestation. Companies unable to do so by 2024 will face hefty fines.
Organizations such as The Global Platform for Sustainable Rubber (GPSNR), have developed solid frameworks, community, and recommendations around how to ensure your natural rubber supply chain and sourcing is truly sustainable. However, the EUDR requires an added level of data and proof (and consequence) to demonstrate source-level proof of deforestation monitoring and action. So while groups like GPSNR, and trailblazing sustainable natural rubber companies such as Michelin, Apollo Tyres, and General Motors have made lots of headway, this progress won’t be enough without provable data and traceability of the land where the natural rubber originates.
Achieving truly sustainable, EUDR-compliant rubber will require companies to:
- Demonstrate Farm-location: Meaning, the ability to show the exact farm-location, down to the plot of land, of where their rubber originates.
- Implement Product Segregation: In other words, showing that all of your rubber product — whether it came from the same farm, or whether it’s a blend of natural and synthetic — was farmed and produced sustainably.
- Maintained chain-of-custody: Meaning, that regardless of what type of processes your rubber goes through, where it travels, how it transforms, and the players involved in making it, that you maintain the chain-of-custody data to show the entire journey from source to end product.
- Verifiable, audit-proof reports: As EUDR and other similar sustainability regulations come into effect, having a system in place to trace and track all of the above data with real-time reports so you can remain audit-ready will be key in proving your compliance and saving your company from large fines.
BanQu: A traceability solution for sustainable, EUDR-compliant rubber.
The level of traceability required to ensure your rubber is sourced in environmentally- and socially-friendly ways can feel out of reach. However, traceability solutions like BanQu can provide the tools, expertise, and data you need — tied to your entire supply chain and pulled into one place — to make ensuring sustainable, EUDR-compliant rubber, easy. To chat with one of our EUDR experts and see if BanQu could be the right fit for your business, schedule a call here.