The great potential of natural rubber for sustainability

Natural rubber is one of the four main products produced from trees. Most natural rubber is harvested by smallholder farmers, and the industry is estimated to employ around 40 million people, generating over $300 billion annually.

Experts say that by following sustainable practices and standards in the supply chain, smallholders can be strong in terms of climate and market challenges, contribute to solving the climate crisis and improving livelihoods.

“Rubber is a symbol of the green economy and sustainable practice because it has the potential to replace synthetic and fossil fuels, contributing to the mitigation of climate change,” explains Vincent Gitts, Director of CIFOR-ICRAF Latin America. “Therefore, it is important for us to increase the visibility and capacity of the tire so that we can implement sustainable environmental protection methods.”

Gietz shared his opinion. A side event It was organized by the International Rubber Research Group at the World Forestry Congress in Seoul, South Korea to discuss green growth of natural rubber systems.International Tire Research Group/IRSG) with CIFOR-ICRAF, and moderated by Salvatore Pinizzotto, IRSG Secretary General.

Three interrelated topics, namely science, economics and policy, have attracted the attention of researchers, government officials, and practitioners involved both physically and empirically.


CIFOR-ICRAF and other research organizations have demonstrated the potential of natural rubber as a renewable natural resource and as part of the circular bioeconomy.

According to Dr. KN Raghavan, Director General of Indian Rubber Council under the Indian Ministry of Commerce (Rubber Board of India under Ministry of Commerce and Industry) for example, rubber trees are more water efficient than other products such as coconut, acacia and eucalyptus.

“Rubber farming produces less emissions because this species requires less fertilizer and can improve soil health, as farmers rarely till the land before planting,” Natural rubber plantations can support a variety of crops that increase biodiversity; Rubber trees are also often grown as medicinal, food and fruit plants.

However, global warming will begin to reduce the amount of land where natural rubber can be grown.

“International Rubber Research and Development Agency”(International Tire Research and Development Board) “It has begun to focus on the maintenance of hardy species, including breeding and rubber production technology,” which aims to help the species adapt to the climate crisis, explains the research agency’s secretary-general, Datuk Dr Abdul Aziz.

Amazonian wild rubber species can be used to strengthen agricultural species.

Lekshmi Nair, Head of Economics and Statistics IRSG, He stresses the need for science to guide the transition Net-zero Natural rubber sector.

The group supports sustainable practices by researching partnerships that increase the percentage of natural rubber use globally.

“Currently, 47 percent of the world’s rubber consumption is derived from natural sources,” he said, adding that an increase is needed to meet government and company commitments to reduce emissions.


The science of natural rubber planting has a direct impact on the economy, with companies such as rubber giant Michelin needing to secure supply and transition 100 percent to natural rubber by 2050. Plant rubber regardless of climate change.

But, right now, our priority is to effectively reduce emissions. [produksi] Tires and delivery,” says Thierry Serres, CThe technical officer picked up For natural rubber by Michelin.

Natural rubber is not only used as a raw material for tires. According to Aziz, natural rubber is used in more than 40,000 products worldwide and has the potential to be used more in the future.

Ben Vickers, senior specialist at the Green Climate Fund, echoed the same sentiment, saying the tire industry is growing 2.7 percent annually and is showing no signs of slowing down.

“Sustaining a sustainable supply will require the private sector to play a role in accelerating the pace of development to meet 100 percent sustainable rubber sources in the next decade,” he said.

CIFOR-ICRAF Managing Director Robert Nasi added that ensuring rubber is truly ‘natural’ and from a sustainable supply chain is an important part of that.

“Currently, the tire industry does not have a comprehensive certification or sustainability standard that allows sustainable tire brands to enter the market,” Nasi recalled.

According to Richard Latty, Program Manager for Southeast Asia, the Forest Certification Support Program ((Forest Certification Program) It can fill this gap. “[Program] It is going,” says Lety. “This program has started a dialogue initiative with ASEAN countries Experimental project in different countries”.

ASEAN Advisory Committee on Tire System Standards and Quality (ASEAN Advisory Committee on Standards and Quality of Tire-Based Systems) The world’s largest producers of natural rubber have a group that identifies standards in countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, said Dian Sukmajaya, a senior officer in the forestry sector at the ASEAN Secretariat.


A comprehensive policy framework focused on smallholders is needed to empower researchers and business professionals to make a positive impact on climate change.

According to Aziz, smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s natural rubber and still need to produce natural rubber in the face of climate shocks, falling market prices and unforeseen circumstances such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There are millions of smallholder farmers and their families who depend on natural rubber,” Aziz said, “so it’s important for consumers and policymakers to ensure that their efforts are rewarded.”

Non-profit groups have an important role in making effective policies. They advocate for smallholder interests by developing networks, strategies, monitoring and reporting, and connecting smallholders, government and the larger private sector,” said Mooi See Tor, Deputy Director of ProForest’s Southeast Asia directorate.

“Direct policy intervention by the government will contribute to increasing forest cover while growing the natural rubber industry,” said Diogo Esperante, CEO of the company. Association of Rubber Manufacturers and Processors of Sao Paulo Brazil (APABOR/São Paulo Association of Rubber Producers and Processors).

Brazil’s national law requires producers to convert 20 percent of their land to natural forest, opening up opportunities for small farmers to grow natural rubber cuttings — as is the case in Indonesia — and as additional income. Natural rubber helps restore 20 million degraded grasslands in Brazil.

In the future, healthy policies supporting natural rubber will depend on strong networks at local and international levels.

“Partnerships are very important in the transition to sustainable natural rubber,” Pinizzotto said. “This is a strategic asset; we need it now and in the future, so cooperation is key.

Emily Gallagher, Integrated Rural Development Specialist at CIFOR-ICRAF, emphasized the importance of inclusive and equitable supply chains where women’s human resources are recognized and valued.

“The industry can lead the way for capacity building, work-life balance, safety and security,” Gallagher said.

Women’s committees and gender-affirming policies are other measures that can be taken to ensure that the industry does not serve half of its producers.

A side-event It is organized jointly. Forests, trees and agroforest partnerships; International Center for Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF); International Tire Research Group; and the International Rubber Research and Development Board.

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