GM Commits To Creating a Sustainable Rubber Supply Chain

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Natural rubber is a part of our everyday lives because tires are part of our lives, whether we drive a car or take public transportation. Tire manufacturing represents 75 percent of the natural rubber market. 

General Motors, one of the world’s largest automakers, sources over 49 million tires annually. The company recently announced its commitment to source sustainable natural rubber for its tires. By doing so, GM will help drive the automotive industry toward net-zero deforestation and is developing purchasing requirements in hopes the entire industry will join them in transforming the rubber supply chain.

There are barriers that exist to make the rubber supply chain sustainable. One of them is being able to trace rubber from farm to factory. The company is working on solutions to overcome that and other barriers by taking steps. One of those steps is working with four tire suppliers that make up 80 percent of GM’s tire supply base--Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear and Michelin. All four companies support GM’s commitment to sustainable rubber. In 2015, Michelin became the first tire manufacturer to make a commitment to zero deforestation. The company is the global leader in tires production and the largest buyer of natural rubber. 

GM plans to take other steps to ensure it will keep its commitment to creating a sustainable natural rubber supply chain. By the end of this year, the company plans to develop an industry roadmap. On June 14, GM is hosting a workshop at Michelin’s Movin’ On Conference to discuss the commitment to sustainable rubber. 

There are risks of deforestation in the rubber supply chain. Tires that are made with natural rubber can be traced back to rubber trees between India and Vietnam, and southern China and Indonesia. That’s where 90 percent of the world’s natural rubber originates. Forests in the region are often cut down so rubber trees can be planted. The forests are among the world’s most threatened. 

Southeast countries that grow rubber trees are experiencing some of the highest deforestation rates. Cambodia held the world’s fastest deforestation rate in 2014, and much of the forests that were destroyed were replaced by rubber trees. Global demand for natural rubber keeps increasing. In 2016, the growth rate for natural rubber was 4.1 percent. Rubber Asia, a magazine devoted to the rubber industry, predicts that by 2050, the area of land dedicated to rubber trees could more than double or triple. 

Every forest that is cut down to make way for rubber trees, releases carbon dioxide. And GM’s greenhouse gas (GHG) impact is 10 times greater in its supply chain than in its operations. So, by focusing on developing a sustainable rubber supply chain, GM will be able to reduce its GHG emissions. That's a win-win solution for the company and the planet.

Photo: GM