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Article

3 May 2022

Author:
Jiang Yifan, China Dialogue

China-led sustainable rubber standard seeks to drive supply chain transformation

"Chinese standard tries to kickstart a sustainable rubber revolution" 29 April 2022

Deforestation, soil erosion, land disputes, biodiversity loss, pollution from agricultural chemicals, labour rights issues…” In an office in Chaoyangmen, Beijing, Sun Lihui counts off the environmental and social issues arising from the natural rubber industry, tracing them back to the horrendous rule of Leopold II, King of Belgium, in the rubber-rich Congo of the late 19th century. [...]

Sun is head of the development department at the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters. The CCCMC was founded in 1988 and represents over 6,000 Chinese firms producing everything from ore to construction materials, petroleum and chemical feedstocks (and was spun off from its supervising body, the Ministry of Commerce, in 2020).

In 2017, under Sun’s leadership, this government-backed industry association produced “Guidance for Sustainable Natural Rubber” – the world’s first social and environmental sustainability standard for the natural rubber industry. [...]

In October 2017, the Guidance was officially published and made available to the industry worldwide. The following month, CSR Europe, the continent’s biggest CSR network, invited Sun Lihui to participate in the launch of its Sustainable Natural Rubber Platform in Paris, urging leading natural rubber growers, processors and traders, as well as tyre and vehicle makers, to work together to create an international organisation promoting sustainable rubber. [...]

The Guidance is designed to be used by companies writing their own sustainability policies or doing supply chain due diligence, or for reference by regulators or financial institutions. But 40 pages of principles to follow doesn’t tell people what they should actually do on the ground. So, the team then came up with a 100-page Implementation Manual, explaining the key points of the guidance, as well as a set of electronic forms referred to as “assessment tools”, which turns the Guidance into 254 quantified indices. Firms can use those to assess their own performance and see where improvements are needed. [...]