SINGAPORE — The Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) general assembly has voted to include smallholder farmers in the natural rubber value-chain platform's decision-making process.
In a virtual event held Sept. 23, members of the Singapore-based group approved the creation of a new standalone category for smallholders to enable them to play an equal role in the body's decision-making process.
The decision will create three seats on the executive committee of the platform, comprising elected representatives from 28 smallholder members who joined the GPSNR earlier this year.
The platform has four other membership categories: producers, processors, and traders; tire manufacturers and other NR makers/buyers; car manufacturers, other downstream users and financial institutions; as well as civil society.
Introducing a "shared responsibility working group," the platform also is aiming to identify how the responsibilities and costs of implementation can be equitably distributed across all stakeholder categories.
The working group, said GPSNR, will take into account that smallholders, who contribute 85% of global NR supply, should not carry the burden of a higher cost to implement sustainability activities.
"Smallholders are a crucial link in the natural-rubber value chain, and they have a key role to play in driving awareness on the ground and setting the global agenda for sustainable natural rubber," GPSNR Director Stefano Savi said.
A total of 28 smallholders from seven countries initially are joining the group to have their interests represented. From that group, smallholders Baroan Roland of Cote d'Ivoire, Soontorn Rakrong of Thailand and Dang Quoc Thong of Vietnam were elected to the executive committee.
"I understand the importance of the responsibility I have received. I hope that I will not disappoint," Mr. Roland said through an interpreter during the meeting.
Mr. Rakrong said he has specific policies he wants to champion during his time on the committee. They include creating stability in rubber prices and improving the quality of life for smallholders.
Amy Smith, of the World Wildlife Fund environmental group and co-chair of the executive committee, said she sees the importance of giving smallholders a voice alongside the rubber-related companies and organizations from throughout the world.
In addition to the vote on smallholder inclusion, the group approved a new policy framework that is intended to help GPSNR member companies establish or update supply-chain sustainability commitments through their NR-purchasing policies. GPSNR member companies account for nearly half of global NR volume.
The framework sets out eight overarching themes that include commitments to legal compliance, community livelihoods, healthy, functioning ecosystems (including no deforestation), and respecting all human rights, according to the GPSNR.
"In just under two years, GPSNR members developed and approved concrete policy commitments for companies to integrate into their sustainable natural rubber policies," Mr. Savi said.
GPSNR members, he said, have shown their commitment to "achieving a fair, equitable and environmentally sound future."
Germany has taken particular interest in GPSNR, becoming both a member of the group and a financial supporter. Gerd Müller, Germany's federal minister for economic cooperation and development, issued a statement read at the meeting expressing the importance of a fair rubber supply chain for all involved.
"Natural rubber is immensely important to functioning of industrial society. But natural rubber is the source of income for millions of smallholders in the tropics," Mr. Müller said in the statement read during the meeting.
But rubber, unlike crops such as coffee and cocoa, is not as much in the public eye when it comes to sustainability and social responsibility.
The GPSNR calls itself an international, multi-stakeholder organization "with a mission to lead improvements in the socioeconomic and environmental performance of the natural rubber value chain."
Members include producers, processors, traders, tire makers and other rubber makers and buyers. Also in the group are automobile manufacturers and other downstream users as well as financial institutions and "civil society," the group said.