A new set of Chinese draft guidelines to promote responsible business practices for the natural rubber sector has been opened up to public consultation. The Guidelines aim to provide companies investing in new rubber plantations with clear principles and step-by-step guidance for protecting land rights, human rights and the environment, and has been drafted by a diverse group of experts, including Global Witness.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Metals, Minerals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters (CCCMC), which is leading on the development of the Guidelines, is encouraging a wide range of stakeholders to participate in the online consultation, including civil society groups, academics, industry representatives, government officials and rubber consumers.
As part of China’s ambitious “Going Out” overseas investment strategy, Chinese companies have been expanding their rubber operations in neighbouring countries, primarily in the Mekong region. China is the biggest consumer of natural rubber in the world.
While potentially providing new economic opportunities in countries where they have been expanding, rubber companies have stumbled when entering business environments beset by corruption, weak land governance and dysfunctional legal systems. New rubber investments in such contexts have contributed to widespread local problems, including land grabbing, destruction of rural livelihoods, deforestation, human rights abuses and corporate crimes.
The Guidelines aim to equip Chinese companies to better understand these risks, and to undertake due diligence processes to avoid creating negative impacts through their investments. Ultimately, the Guidelines should also create a better, more stable investment model for Chinese rubber companies, by ensuring that their operations do not fall foul of legal challenges, local opposition or reputational damages.
Key elements of the draft Guidelines include:
- Principles for responsible investment for rubber companies to follow, covering environmental, social and governance issues
- Pointers for conducting extensive due diligence around potential new projects before proceeding with an investment, including with respect to the local political economy, land governance issues, and potential impacts on local livelihoods and the environment. These include engaging in processes to seek the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of people in communities potentially affected by the proposed plantation or factory
- Comprehensive guidance for responsible business practice during the operational phase of the investment, including building and maintaining good relations with neighbouring communities, respecting workers’ rights, protecting the environment and upholding human rights
- Alignment with international best practice standards for agribusiness companies, including the UN Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Land and the OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains.
CCCMC aims to publish the finalised Guidelines by the end of 2016.
The draft Guidelines are available in Chinese and English.
Comments should be sent to [email protected] before 30th September.
Download the draft guidelines