FAIRLAWN, Ohio—The natural rubber latex industry is taking steps toward sustainability, but it's important to remember that the process has just begun.
That was the message from Whitney Luckett, founding president of Southland Rubber USA—which produces 200,000 metric tons of latex annually throughout its six manufacturing sites—at the 2019 International Latex Conference, held recently in Fairlawn, Ohio.
"Natural rubber sustainability is in its infancy," she said. "There are a lot of people—like Ford and Toyota—looking for sustainable natural rubber and recognizing where we are. We have so many different people involved in this equation that we have to be thinking about. We have to bring the needs of all these different communities together before we can really do something."
Sustainability is pushing many industries to change and natural rubber is no different. Luckett said consumers want traceability all the way back to the farmers, but in order to achieve that goal, the industry has had to come together and deeply examine the supply chain.
It's the main mission of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, which just held its inaugural general assembly in March. GPSNR was developed by major tire makers, announcing its formation in 2017.
It now consists of representatives from nearly 40 organizations throughout the industry, including NR producers, processors, traders, auto makers, tire makers, affiliate members and non-government organizations.
"We need to define what the market needs," Luckett said. "The Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber is doing that right now. It's in its infancy, but they have the right people at the table and that's what we're working on. There will be some sort of standards coming out of it."
The forum consists of members throughout the natural rubber industry, car companies like BMW, Ford, General Motors and Toyota; the world's five largest tire makers in Bridgestone, Michelin, Goodyear, Continental and Sumitomo, among others; NGOs like the WWF, World Resources Institute and Mighty Earth, among others; and producers like Southland Global, Scofin, Sipef, SAPH and Halcyon Agri, among others.