GM Drives Demand for Sustainable Natural Rubber

May 16, 2017 12:05 PM ET

Through an automotive industry-first commitment to sourcing sustainable natural rubber in its tires, General Motors is helping drive the industry toward net-zero deforestation and uphold human and labor rights. The company will develop a set of purchasing requirements, with the intent that the entire automotive industry will join in the movement and together help transform the rubber supply chain.

GM hopes to accelerate progress already made and develop solutions for barriers that remain, such as the traceability of rubber from farm to factory, and assurance on the responsible practices used to produce it.

“GM sources more than 49 million tires each year, and while we are not the largest user, our volume can have an impact on the direction of industry,” said Steve Kiefer, GM senior vice president of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain.

The issue

Tire suppliers, the International Rubber Study Group and local governments have made progress in voluntarily supporting and developing sources of sustainable natural rubber. Still the natural rubber value chain is complex, and risks of deforestation, human rights violations, and challenges of transparency and traceability remain.

World Wildlife Fund said tire manufacture represents 75 percent of the natural rubber market, which means tire manufacturers and automakers have an important role to play.

“We welcome GM’s commitment to bring their top suppliers on board and hope today’s announcement will inspire automakers and tire makers alike to deliver on the promise of zero deforestation tires in the near future,” said Kerry Cesareo, vice president, forests, WWF. “WWF calls on automakers, tire manufacturers and rubber suppliers to develop strong public zero deforestation policies that will help transform the natural rubber supply chain and set us on a path toward a more sustainable future.”

GM’s vision is that auto industry demand for sustainable natural rubber will add to the momentum and accelerate results.

The business case

The business case helped GM drive this change as the move mitigates risk related to supply chain sourcing and performance and helps assure long-term availability of a key commodity. Collaborating as an industry will help ensure that volume meets growing global demand, which will also improve yields and drive cost efficiencies.

The commitment also helps reduce carbon impacts on the communities where rubber is produced and ensure people are safe when doing related jobs in those regions.

Next steps

  • GM is working with Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear and Michelin – suppliers that make up 80 percent of the automaker’s tire supply base. All four companies support GM’s goal.
  • On June 14, GM will host a workshop at Michelin’s Movin’ On Conference, kicking off a series of multi-stakeholder dialogues and exchanges in 2017 to discuss the “what” and the “how” of this commitment. Throughout the year, the company will work to raise awareness of the issue among stakeholders around the world.
  • GM expects to develop an industry roadmap by the end of the year.

For more information on GM’s supply chain sustainability initiatives, please visit