Footballs and Wetsuits – FSC Rubber is Hot Hot Hot 

It was a uniform yes! to more FSC-certified rubber from all speakers at Wednesday's rubber session. From producers to buyers, the message was consistent - the market is ready. But when discussions moved to the “whys” and the “hows” of FSC-certified rubber, the voices got more diverse. 


By Ida Rehnström, FSC Denmark

First up – a football! The first ever FSC-certified rubber product and the vision of Mr. Martin Kunz. He is the director of the Fair Rubber Association and he shared his experience as a pioneer in the world of fair-trade FSC-certified rubber products. Producing all sorts of products in a sustainable way – from rubber boots to baseball caps the organization is continuously expanding. One of the major challenges for Martin and Fair Rubber is the fact that consumers still don’t get the connection between rubber and the FSC-label “These days I spend half my time explaining why the FSC-logo appears on rubber products. People by now only realize its on paper or wooden products.”

Natural rubber – a driver for deforestation

With a growing natural rubber sector in Guatemala, Mr. Mario Rafael Rodríguez, Market Specialist at Econegocios Occidente laid down his thoughts on rubber and FSC: “Natural rubber is one of the most important world commodities, therefor the best practices are crucial for ensuring a sustainable supply in long term”. 

Rubber being a driver for deforestation, he sees certification as a way to better social rights alongside providing deforestation-free natural rubber. Some of the benefits of FSC to him is: “permanent jobs, protection of natural forests and river forests, benefits to surrounding communities, protection of wildlife and biodiversity.

Worlds first FSC-certified wetsuit 

To Mr. Jeff Martins. CEO at Yulex there is no doubt that natural rubber is the future. The synthetic rubber is based on oil and is non-renewable.

“Right now tire manufacturers control the global rubber markets using 70% of all rubber. Footwear is second with 10%.” But it looks like this is going to change.

The right way to move forward for Yulex is the natural rubber, but to avoid issues like deforestation, chemicals (for growing the trees) and human rights abuse, FSC-certification is the way for them. They just launched a FSC-certified wetsuit in collaboration with Patagonia winning several awards for the project. Stating that these products are not the cheapest ones on the market, Jeff is not nervous for the business side of certified rubber

“I see times are changing, I see a new generation of consumers, millennials, coming through and they are willing to pay for and support the products we put to the marketplace”. 

He is backed up by Mr. Ila Farshad Sales and Marketing Manager at Vita Talalay, who produces FSC-certified foam for bedding companies. He too experiences how consumers are willing to pay more for certified and healthier products.

BMW and elephants

At BMW they have not yet arrived at FSC-tires due to lack of supply, but they already use FSC as a part of their interior and “sees FSC as a robust certification scheme for natural rubber”. The road for getting BMW to a point where they can ensure FSC-certified tires will be more dialogue with local partners, information meetings on FSC on the ground and more collaboration.

At the other part of the spectrum is WWF where Aditya Bayunda from WWF Indonesia is trying to solve a specific challenge. They are faced with a big area of tropical forest in Sumatra, home to endangered species such as tigers, elephants and orangutans. They plan to use the rubber plantations as buffer zones and income for the area. But it needs to be certified. He finds that “these are exciting times for FSC” with lots of potential for certifying important areas. But he encourages FSC to foresee this growing demand and 1: Find mechanism for smallholder certification (most rubber producers are smallholders) 2: Create innovative NTFP standard for rubber 3: Make sure there is an added value for certified rubber at the end of the production cycle.