Tree to Tyre- Sustainable Rubber

, 12 minute read

Quick summary: Explore the sustainable journey from 'Tree to Tyre' in the rubber industry. Uncover how responsible rubber cultivation is redefining the sector while safeguarding the environment. Dive into the world of sustainable rubber production in our latest blog

Sustainable Rubber is increasingly in the spotlight for manufacturers, as both consumers and companies become more discerning about the environmental and social consequences of rubber production. 

Rubber holds a prominent place in the automotive industry, with tire manufacturers being the largest global consumers of natural rubber, accounting for over 70% of the annual global rubber production.  

Indonesia, the world’s second-largest rubber producer, relies heavily on the rubber industry, with approximately 90% of rubber plantation areas managed by independent smallholders, directly impacting the livelihoods of over 2.5 million households. However, these smallholders face challenges in achieving higher yields due to unsustainable practices and aging rubber trees, hindering their socio-economic progress. Furthermore, these unsustainable practices place a growing burden on the environment. 

In our blog post, we embark on a journey that unravels the ‘Tree to Tyre’ concept, shedding light on how sustainable rubber cultivation is redefining the industry while safeguarding our planet. Join us in discovering the story of rubber’s sustainable evolution. 

The Rubber Industry Overview 

The rubber industry plays a vital role worldwide. Global production primarily involves two types: natural rubber from rubber trees and synthetic rubber derived from petrochemicals. Rubber finds applications in diverse sectors, such as automobile tires, footwear, construction materials, industrial products, medical equipment, and consumer goods. This versatile material is central to modern life, supporting various industries and infrastructure while contributing significantly to global trade and economic development. 

The biggest consumer of Natural Rubber is China, followed by India, EU, US, Thailand, Japan and Indonesia, each using between 4 and 9 % of the global production. 

The Need for Sustainable Rubber 

The natural rubber sector holds a pivotal position in the economies of numerous developing nations, with a special focus on the primary producing and exporting countries in Southeast Asia. These countries collectively account for around 90% of the world’s natural rubber production. The industry contributes significantly, generating an annual revenue surpassing USD 300 billion and providing livelihoods for approximately 40 million individuals and their families, both directly and indirectly through employment opportunities. 

According to an assessment by SPOTT, 79% of natural rubber manufacturers assessed are yet to publicly claim traceability to rubber processor level. 

Rubber production poses environmental challenges, notably deforestation and habitat destruction due to land clearing for rubber plantations. This impacts biodiversity and carbon storage.  Forest conversion to cropland and plantations is driving land clearing of high-biodiversity forests resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Additionally, the extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers in rubber farming can harm ecosystems. Social challenges include labor issues and land conflicts, as smallholders and indigenous communities sometimes face exploitation and displacement. Sustainable practices are essential to mitigate these adverse effects. 

Hence, it becomes imperative to advocate for sustainability within the natural rubber supply chain as a means of tackling environmental and social challenges. An environmentally and socially sustainable natural rubber supply chain plays a significant role in preserving well-functioning ecosystems and advocating for the adoption of optimal harvesting practices in both industrial and individual plantations. Furthermore, sustainability holds a critical position in the natural rubber supply chain by upholding traditional land rights and enhancing the well-being and working conditions of smallholder farmers and the broader community. 

Rubber Production: From Trees to Raw Material 

Rubber cultivation begins with planting rubber trees, typically the Hevea brasiliensis species. After several years of growth, latex collection commences. Latex, a milky sap, is obtained by making shallow diagonal cuts on the tree’s bark using a specialized tool, a process known as tree tapping. The latex then flows into a collection cup or container. Tappers revisit the trees regularly for latex harvesting, ensuring sustainable yield without harming the tree’s health. 

  • The natural rubber supply chain is complex and fragmented, comprising a network of smallholder farmers, multiple tiers of raw material dealers, processing facilities, and, ultimately, traders and manufacturers of rubber products. 
  • The process is ever-changing: Rubber latex is harvested daily, and each day, smallholder farmers make decisions based on price fluctuations regarding which dealer or processor to sell their production to. 
  • Following collection, the latex undergoes refinement and transformation into raw natural rubber products. This intricate process involves a large number of processors operating at local, regional, national, and global levels before it reaches manufacturers of tires and rubber goods. 
  • The same rubber may take different paths: frequently, the same farmers and land plots supply natural rubber to multiple rubber factories. Additionally, rubber from various plots is blended at the processing factory level, and the resulting product is distributed to several tire and rubber goods manufacturers. 
  • In essence, it’s probable that the natural rubber sources are common among the majority of tire and rubber manufacturers, drawing from a pool of approximately 6 million smallholder farmers. These farmers sell their produce to around 100,000 dealers, who, in turn, distribute it to roughly 500 processing plants. Subsequently, these processing plants supply the rubber to manufacturers of various rubber products. 
  • The sourcing areas for natural rubber processors are vast. Approximately 80% of the raw material is obtained from within a 150-200 km radius of the processor’s location, while 15% is sourced from distances of 200-500 km. A smaller proportion, around 5%, is acquired from locations over 500 km away.  
  • Natural rubber has a notable characteristic of being storable for extended periods, leading to the creation of partial and transient inventories at various points within the supply chain. As a result, the standard ‘first-in, first-out’ principle is not commonly followed. This trait also elucidates why natural rubber can traverse substantial distances.

Challenges in Rubber Supply Chains 

Traceability is one of the most challenging aspects of sustainability in the natural rubber supply chain since more than 90 per cent of the global natural rubber is produced by independent smallholders, with little or no interaction with downstream companies. 

.A Proforest study commissioned by the Global Platform on Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) has identified six categories of environmental risks, namely, land use change, biodiversity loss, water, soil, air quality and climate change 

The rubber supply chain grapples with multiple challenges.  

  • Deforestation often accompanies land conversion for rubber plantations, leading to habitat loss and biodiversity decline.  
  • Monoculture practices can degrade soil health and increase vulnerability to pests and diseases. 
  •  Labor issues, including low wages and poor working conditions, persist in some rubber-producing regions, posing social challenges.  
  • Environmentally, it contributes to deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss. The excessive use of agrochemicals harms ecosystems and water quality. 
  • Socially, it can result in land conflicts, displacement of indigenous communities, and exploitative labor conditions, including low wages and inadequate worker rights. 

Addressing these concerns through sustainable practices and responsible sourcing is crucial for the rubber industry’s long-term viability. 

Sustainable Rubber Initiatives 

In 2018, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development launched GPSNR with the objective of addressing concerns pertaining to the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the natural rubber supply chain. The overarching vision of GPSNR is to foster a natural rubber value chain that is characterized by fairness, equity, and environmental responsibility. Its core mission is to spearhead enhancements in both the socio-economic and environmental aspects of the natural rubber value chain. GPSNR is deeply committed to encouraging the adoption of sustainable natural rubber practices in the global marketplace by confronting issues such as forest conversion, biodiversity depletion, violations of human and labor rights, and inequalities within the natural rubber supply chain. 

Several companies and organizations are actively promoting sustainable rubber production. The “Sustainable Natural Rubber Initiative” (SNR-i) is a collaborative effort by tire manufacturers, such as Michelin and Bridgestone, to improve sustainability in the industry. Companies like The Body Shop and Patagonia are also committed to sourcing sustainable rubber. These initiatives prioritize responsible sourcing, reduced deforestation, and fair labor practices, showcasing the industry’s shift toward sustainability. 

Having a sustainable supply chain is key for the industry, as this translates into resilience, sustainability, reliability and stability in a very competitive market.  

Certification systems like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Rainforest Alliance have expanded their focus beyond timber and agriculture to promote responsible rubber sourcing. They set standards for environmentally and socially responsible rubber production. These certifications ensure sustainable land management, reduced deforestation, and fair treatment of workers. They provide consumers with assurance that their rubber products meet ethical and environmental standards, encouraging more responsible supply chains in the rubber industry. 

Technology and Innovation in Rubber Supply Chains 

Blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) are bolstering traceability and transparency in rubber supply chains. IoT sensors on trees and in collection cups monitor latex production, ensuring efficiency and quality. Blockchain technology records every step in the supply chain, making data accessible and immutable. This enables stakeholders to track the journey of rubber products, confirming their ethical and sustainable origins and fostering greater trust in the supply chain. 

Innovations in sustainable rubber farming and processing are advancing environmental and social responsibility. These include drought-resistant rubber tree varieties, reducing water use. Precision agriculture techniques optimize resource efficiency. Sustainable processing methods are reducing emissions and chemical usage. Additionally, the development of bio-based and recycled rubber materials contributes to eco-friendly products and circular economies in the rubber industry. 

The Role of Consumers 

Consumer awareness and responsible purchasing decisions play a pivotal role in driving sustainability in the rubber industry. Informed consumers who choose products with ethical and eco-friendly sourcing send a clear message to companies to adopt responsible practices. By supporting sustainably sourced rubber, consumers can contribute to the preservation of ecosystems, fair labor conditions, and overall environmental health. Their choices wield considerable influence in shaping the future of rubber production. 

Tips for consumers to support sustainable rubber supply chains 

  1. Look for certification labels like FSC and Rainforest Alliance. 
  1. Research brands and products committed to sustainable sourcing. 
  1. Reduce waste by choosing durable, long-lasting rubber goods. 
  1. Support recycling and eco-friendly alternatives to rubber. 
  1. Advocate for responsible rubber sourcing through social media and consumer feedback. 
  1. Stay informed about issues related to rubber production and its impact on the environment and communities. 
  1. Encourage companies to adopt ethical practices. 

The Business Case for Sustainable Rubber 

Businesses gain several advantages from investing in sustainable rubber supply chains. They enhance their brand reputation and appeal to eco-conscious consumers, potentially increasing sales. Sustainable practices can reduce operational costs and resource use. Improved supply chain transparency and resilience mitigate risks. Additionally, adhering to ethical and environmental standards helps meet regulatory requirements, ensuring long-term viability and access to environmentally conscious markets. 

Rubber and EUDR Compliance 

The recent consensus on the EUDR, which incorporates natural rubber into the list of regulated commodities, underscores the growing need for manufacturers in the natural rubber industry to reveal geo-location data concerning their upstream production sites. This shift places a heightened emphasis on reinforcing due diligence practices. 

As per the EUDR, businesses introducing products to the EU market or exporting from it must prove that their products, including rubber derivatives like gloves, tires, and apparel, are free from deforestation and adhere to legal standards. Non-compliance with the EUDR could result in penalties of up to 4% of a company’s EU-wide turnover.  

Research conducted by ZSL reveals that merely 7% of companies provide documented evidence of routine deforestation monitoring in their supplier operations. 

Companies like Michelin have made significant strides in adopting eco-friendly rubber sourcing. They’ve committed to sustainably harvesting natural rubber through the “Sustainable Natural Rubber Initiative” (SNR-i). Similarly, tire manufacturer Bridgestone is actively pursuing sustainable rubber supply chains to reduce deforestation and protect ecosystems. These initiatives align with growing consumer demand for responsible and eco-friendly products, setting positive examples for the rubber industry. 

TraceX Solutions 

TraceX’s blockchain traceability solutions empower rubber companies to establish a transparent, efficient, and responsible supply chain. This not only ensures compliance with regulations but also enhances product quality, safety, and consumer trust, ultimately benefiting the company’s bottom line and sustainability efforts. 

The blockchain technology allows for the creation of an immutable ledger that records every step in the rubber supply chain. This transparency ensures that each transaction and movement of rubber is traceable, providing a clear view of the product’s journey from source to end-user.  

The blockchain traceability helps rubber companies prove that their products are sourced responsibly and sustainably. This is particularly important as consumers and regulatory bodies are increasingly focused on ethical and environmentally friendly practices. 


In conclusion, the rubber industry’s sustainability efforts are vital for mitigating environmental and social challenges associated with its production. Sustainable practices and responsible sourcing, coupled with technological innovations and consumer awareness, hold the key to a more eco-friendly and socially responsible rubber supply chain. Businesses that invest in sustainability can reap economic and reputational benefits while safeguarding our planet’s fragile ecosystems and the well-being of local communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sustainable rubber cultivation employs responsible practices that minimize the impact on the environment. This includes measures to reduce deforestation, protect biodiversity, and enhance the overall health of ecosystems. TraceX’s blockchain traceability solutions play a key role by providing transparency in the supply chain, ensuring that rubber is sourced from responsible and environmentally-friendly practices.

The rubber industry encounters challenges such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, and ethical concerns in the supply chain. TraceX offers blockchain traceability solutions that enable rubber companies to monitor and verify the origins of their rubber products, promoting ethical and sustainable sourcing practices. It also aids in addressing these challenges by providing data and insights for responsible decision-making.
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