Sustainability is key for today's business. But how does this play out for the rubber sector in Southeast Asia, where the world's largest suppliers of rubber are located?
In its Sept. 22 webinar, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification highlighted the importance of protecting the world's forests through two linked processes of sustainable business certification for both natural rubber and rubberwood in Southeast Asia: Sustainable forest management and chain of custody.
Representatives from the PEFC Southeast Asia team walked participants through the technical process of getting PEFC certified during their "Get PEFC Certified – Learn from First Movers in the Rubber Sector" presentation, which took place via Zoom, with the help of some case studies.
Richard Laity, PEFC's Southeast Asia manager, discussed the certification process, explaining that to become PEFC-certified, a business must take three main steps, involving preparation, an audit and communicating the certification.
"One is getting prepared," he said of the first step. "Contact us, contact your CB (certification body), prepare for your audit."
The second step is to arrange the audit with a chosen certification body. In this step, a PEFC-recognized certified body will verify a company's compliance to certification requirements. Upon successful completion of the audit, the company will sign logo usage and trademark contracts to display a seal of its certification.
The final step, Laity said, is to communicate the certification by using the label on products and promoting the certification to supply chain customers.
Types of certifications
For sustainable forest management, the certification ensures the stewardship and use of forests, lands and plantations in a way that maintains their health so as not to cause damage to the ecosystem, according to PEFC.
"Sustainable management is essential to ensure society's demands don't compromise the resource," PEFC's website says of forests. "Sustainable forest management offers a holistic approach to ensure forest activities deliver social, environmental and economic benefits, balance competing needs and maintain and enhance forest functions now and in the future."
There are six principles to PEFC sustainability benchmarks, Laity outlined in the webinar.
These principles include the maintenance, enhancement, conservation or encouragement of forest resources and their contribution to the global carbon cycle, forest ecosystem health and vitality, productive functions of forests, biological diversity in forest ecosystems, protective functions in forest management and socio-economic functions and conditions.
This certification follows three "pillars of sustainability," according to PEFC—outcomes that are socially just, ecologically sound and economically viable.
"We cannot separate, compartmentalize or address individually these pillars," PEFC says. "If one pillar is missing, we cannot protect our forests, forest-dependent communities and rural economies cannot thrive, illegal logging will not be abated and development opportunities will not be captured."
Chain of custody certification, Laity said, involves the record keeping and tracking of certified products within the supply chain. A company must implement a specific, traceable procedure for each step of the supply chain for any product with a PEFC-certified claim or label.
Requirements for chain of custody certification involve complying with PEFC ST 2002:2020 standards, briefing and training personnel responsible for tasks that affect the implementation of chain of custody, implementing PEFC certification verification checks of sourced material, implementing processes to ensure separated production or handling of certified and non-certified goods, and conducting periodic reviews of the system and annual internal audits.
Another part of chain of custody is what is called PEFC's due diligence system.
"This is very relevant to rubber because a lot of rubber source is uncertified," Laity said. "For that reason, the due diligence system inside our chain of custody, it covers the core elements of sustainability and covers legality so that it can be considered controlled, sourced and mixed with certified material."
This is done through several steps, he said, "accessing information; completing risk assessment; having substantiated concerns; and then if there's significant risk of supplies, managing them through verification program; and if they don't meet the requirements, no placement on the market."
While separate certifications, the chain of custody and sustainable forest management go hand in hand, PEFC's due diligence system under the chain of custody also ensures controlled sources, Laity said.
PEFC said on their website that its "due diligence system requires participants to establish supply chain control systems to minimize the risk that certified products include raw materials from controversial sources."