SINGAPORE—Members of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber have adopted a shared responsibility framework to ensure equality across the entire natural rubber supply chain.
During the platform's annual general assembly held in Singapore July 13, the members, who account for more than 55 percent of the global natural rubber demand, acknowledged "the lack of equality" in the NR supply chain and charted out a mechanism to address that.
"GPSNR's vision is a sustainable, equitable and fair natural rubber supply chain," Director Stefano Savi said in a statement. "The shared responsibility framework brings us closer to this mission by addressing inequity in a systemic, long-term approach, with well-defined goals and milestones."
Under the new shared responsibility concept, the costs and benefits of the platform's sustainability initiatives will be shared equitably across all players within the supply chain, GPSNR said in a statement.
In line with the decision, the members passed a resolution that binds them to a shared responsibility framework with three pillars: shared investments, value transfer and target setting, and knowledge and data sharing.
GPSNR expects each of the three pillars to be in the testing, implementation or pilot stage of their specific goals by the third quarter of 2023.
Savi noted that the member support for the newly established framework is evidence of a genuine intent to create a fairness across the industry.
"However," he said, "the real work starts now. In the next two years. We hope to report on the implementation of this framework with data-driven results."
Ana Arce, sustainability manager of Bridgestone Americas and co-chair of shared responsibility working group, noted that establishing a framework like this is not easy, given the "very complicated" nature of the NR industry.
Nearly 90 percent of the world's NR supply is produced by more than 6 million smallholder farmers, mostly in southeast Asia. And of that production, nearly 70 percent goes to tire makers such as Bridgestone and other GPSNR members.
"Beyond that, since GPSNR members represent over 55 percent of the world's rubber volume, there was no question that the platform had to do something, but where do we even start?" she said.
To move these conversations from the academic realm to the implementation one, the working group, which was set up in early 2021, defined "an aggressive timeline" that would prove challenging for such a large organization, according to Arce.
"We defined three areas of focus: investment, data transparency, and reinforcing the value chain," Arce said.
After a few meetings it was clear that every category group had its own priorities and a very clear desire to have a solution as soon as possible, Arce said. As a result, the working group decided to do a foundational exercise to bring everyone to the same starting point.
"A root cause analysis allowed us to identify the critical focus areas under each priority and understand the pressing needs of each of the groups represented," she said.
Then, with the help of a consultant, the working group was able to redefine some priorities. These included the three key pillars of the shared responsibility framework, which are designed to investigate the best investment mechanism (shared investment), responsible and safe ways of sharing knowledge and data (knowledge and data sharing), and a way to measure and recognize those investing in sustainable management (value transfer and target setting).
The working group assigned expected roles and responsibilities earlier this year and now has "a detailed roadmap for each of those pillars with critical decision points."
"By the end of 2023, we will be able to pilot and test most of the solutions proposed and founded by our own members for the benefit of all," Arce said.
As a tire maker and also a producer of natural rubber, Bridgestone has been an active and founding member of GPSNR.
"While we (at Bridgestone) advance the shared responsibility agenda, we balance our capacity, resources, and expectations with the ones from other members.
"While it could be perceived that tire makers' only responsibility is economic, we have learned that there is much more that can be done through collaborations, education, and sharing of knowledge," Arce said.