LONDON—Tire manufacturers and non-government organizations are locked in a tug-of-war over the governance structure of the newly formed Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber.
The "independent platform" was launched Oct. 25 by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Tire Industry Project to drive up the socio-economic and environmental performance of the NR value-chain.
Its formation was led by a working group of TIP member companies: Bridgestone Corp., Continental A.G., Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Goodyear, Hankook Tire Co. Ltd., Kumho Tire Co. Inc., Michelin, Pirelli & C. S.p.A., Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd., Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. and Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.
A number of NGOs—Mighty Earth, WWF, Global Witness, Birdlife, Rainforest Alliance, FSC and ProForest—also have been involved in discussions around the set-up of the GPSNR.
"The platform will be independently managed and is being purposefully shaped through the collaboration of businesses and NGOs," said Gavin Whitmore, communication manager for TIP and WBCSD.
Stakeholders are continuing to meet to finalize operational details, including that of governance ahead of the operational launch of the platform in March 2019, Whitmore said in a written statement.
"All natural rubber stakeholder groups will have a vote, and voting weight will reflect stakeholder ownership, expertise and capacity to implement meaningful change," he wrote. "TIP is looking to the GPSNR to achieve real change in the natural rubber supply chain.
"The experience of other platforms has demonstrated success is best achieved where voting weight reflects stakeholder ownership, expertise and capacity to implement meaningful change."
But, for Liviya James, a spokeswoman for Mighty Earth, this is "just an elaborate way of saying 'we won't give up control.'"
The platform voting system, she said, should comprise 50 percent value chain industry actors, and 50 percent small farmer representatives, NGOs, academia and other non-value-chain stakeholders.
As things stand, WBCSD TIP is in "complete control of the platform," James said. "It has been negotiating with NGOs for eight months and still has not come up with an equitable governance structure."
Nevertheless, there is still some scope for negotiation, James said, noting that the TIP had agreed that the next set of talks at the end of November can be conducted by an independent conflict mediator.
But the tire industry must give up the idea of having the final say over platform decisions, James said.
"Standards have to be developed jointly and agreed (upon) mutually between value chain actors and non-value chain experts for the rubber industry to genuinely address its serious impacts on local communities and the environment in the tropics," she said.