rubber mekong brighter

Rubber in the Mekong

The last decade has seen the rubber industry balloon, but as supply struggles to keep up with demand rubber plantation companies are expanding onto new land with disastrous effect. Read more

Rubber is everywhere – in shoes, condoms and conveyer belts. Not to mention the global tyre industry, which consumes half of world’s natural rubber and was worth US$138 billion in 2013.

Major rubber producing nations are short on land, however, and with demand set to outstrip supply by around 10 per cent by 2020, companies are expanding into new territories such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. In South East Asia, large-scale rubber plantations are now one of the main drivers of land grabs and deforestation - a new industry reality that Global Witness exposed in its 2013 report Rubber Barons. 

The rubber industry needn’t become tainted by these risks. In fact around 85% of rubber globally is produced by smallholders, and evidence suggests that production on this scale brings lasting economic, social and environmental benefits. Rubber can be easily grown alongside other cash crops like banana, tea, cocoa and pineapple. Not only does this reduce competition for land, it also provides an alternative income for farmers, and the diversity of crops provides a source of food for families.  

Global Witness is working with the rubber industry to raise awareness of risks and impacts, encourage smallholder production and develop guidelines for sustainable sourcing. We have had ongoing engagement with the main industry body, the International Rubber Study Group, and are working with leading tyre companies and regional tyre associations on sourcing policies. 

In China, the Ministry of Commerce recently invited Global Witness to help develop guidelines for Chinese overseas investments in rubber, informed by existing international standards and practices in other sectors.