SINGAPORE—The World Rubber Summit (WRS) 2021 was held from June 8-11, under the theme: "Facing the Future: Inclusiveness, Sustainability and Growth for the Next Normal."
Staged as a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit was organized by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG), in collaboration with the ministry of agriculture and rural development of the government of Ivory Coast.
WRS 2021 provided an important opportunity for the global rubber industry to discuss current challenges as well as future opportunities that might arise from the disruptive trends, including those around sustainability, new mobility and rubber production.
Following the event, ERJ interviewed Salvatore Pinizzotto, secretary-general of the International Rubber Study Group, about progress made at the summit and future prospects for the natural rubber industry.
ERJ: What were the main targets for WRS 2021?
SP: The World Rubber Summit 2021 was organized as a hybrid event due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has negatively impacted the rubber sector as many others since December 2019. The global economy has witnessed one of the worst economic crises in history.
It has exposed the weakness of our economic and social systems in many countries and has rolled back decades of progress on poverty reduction exposing social and economic equalities.
The rubber economy has not been an exception. Furthermore, new mobility, digitalization, climate change and the development of the "green economy" will be the driving forces that will determine the future of this sector.
The WRS 2021 has been a great opportunity for leaders, experts, government representatives and NGOs to discuss the current status of the rubber industry and explore the way forward to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.
The summit has also highlighted the important role that Africa can play as an emerging producer of natural rubber but also the strategic importance of the rubber economy for the Continent.
(The rubber industry offers) an engine to create jobs and transform its economic and social prospects providing opportunities for young people and women, real key drivers of sustainable growth, development and peace.
ERJ: How well did the summit meet those targets?
SP: The summit saw the participation of 29 eminent speakers from all part of the world, about 200 participants directly linked to the virtual platform and a significant public participation in (Ivory Coast), where stakeholders in the rubber sector interacted in person during the event.
Innovative ideas and approaches emerged during the World Rubber Summit to address the new challenges that have the potential to change the global pattern of production and consumption in the rubber sector.
(There also were) market and policy discussions on new ways in business and life to turn the (COVID-19) crisis into an opportunity from the lessons learned.
Discussions around decarbonization commitment of governments justifying sustainable and secure supply chains for raw materials were focused on supply-chain collaboration ensuring raw-material efficiency, performance and traceability in a holistic way.
Important debate took place on the impact of climate change on natural rubber systems (and the) potential economic, environmental and social risks.
(These challenges) need to be addressed: identifying a set of policy recommendations that could facilitate the work of all stakeholders in rubber value-chain.
Actions on adaptation of natural rubber systems to climate changes are urgently needed as well as doing more investigation on the potential contribution of rubber to climate change mitigation.
Work based on scientific knowledge is the precondition to identify correct pathways with the goal to preserve and support the growth and prosperity of the natural rubber economy worldwide.
In this field, IRSG has had a leading role thanks to the support of important R&D organizations such as CIFOR/FTA, IRRDB and CIRAD.
ERJ: From the presentations and discussions during WRS: a) how well placed is the rubber industry to meet its stated goals around sustainability; and b) what emerged from WRS as the main challenges for rubber suppliers and manufacturers in meeting their sustainability goals?
SP: The main common point that emerged during the World Rubber Summit is that we need to formulate policies and put in place actions that are people-centered.
If we look at the natural rubber sector alone it sustains 40 million people with their families around the globe with a supply chain generating more than $300 billion. Furthermore, about 90 percent of the total world natural rubber production is sourced by smallholders.
If we really want to build an inclusive and sustainable rubber community we need to work at local, national and international level. There is not a "fit-one-for-all" solution.(It requires) putting in place innovative forms of cooperation across national borders and a variety of actors—governments, business, academia and civil society.
Reduce poverty establishing mechanisms that could provide to smallholders an adequate level of income, provide technology transfer, support education and training among farmers, especially young people and women, are some of the policies needed to implement sustainability.
Leveraging on application of digital technology in farming and green finance options encouraging climate change adaptation are other key policies to assure emission reduction and social inclusion.
Sustainability and circular economy are two aspects that we need to keep high on the agenda of all stakeholders in the rubber economy.
We need to make sure that both natural and synthetic rubber sectors comply with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted.
ERJ: What are your hopes and expectations for the next staging of the WRS?
SP: The World Rubber Summit is the main event organized by the IRSG and the most important for the rubber sector. The IRSG secretariat is committed to continue to organise, in collaboration with the IRSG member governments, this prestigious and globally recognized event with the goal to turn inspiration to action and shaping the future of rubber.
ERJ: Any other points?
SP: I would like to thank the Government of Côte d'Ivoire, that has been the host country of this Summit, for all the efforts they guaranteed for a successful WRS 2021.
I would like to express my gratitude to the prime minister of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, HE M. Jerome Patrick Achi and the minister of agriculture and rural development, honorable Kobenan Kouassi Adjourmani for having honoured the World Rubber Summit with their presence.
A special thank to HE Aly Toure', permanent representative of Côte d'Ivoire to International Commodity Organizations and current chairperson of IRSG.
Let me also thank FIRCA (Fonds Interprofessionnel Pour la Recherche et Le Conseil Agricoles) and APROMAC (Association des Professionnels du Coautchouc Naturalle de Côte d'Ivoire) that have been the co-hosts of the Summit and all the sponsors that have supported us for this event.
Finally, I would like to thank all the IRSG member governments for having always supported the secretariat and provided invaluable inputs to the World Rubber Summit 2021.