VW steps up natural rubber sustainability efforts

German car maker working on contractual requirements for responsible NR sourcing

Wolfsburg, Germany – The Volkswagen Group has stepped up its sustainable rubber efforts and is preparing “more binding” requirements for the responsible sourcing of natural rubber from its tire suppliers.

In its 2021 responsible raw materials report, the German car maker said it had established a project on innovative tracing technologies and their usability in the natural rubber value chain in partnership with the Volkswagen Group Research.

“One of our next steps is to finalise and roll out contractual requirements with mandatory responsible sourcing requirements for our tire suppliers, as well as to move forward with risk mitigation measures,” the German group said.

Furthermore, the automotive group is working with relevant stakeholders to review opportunities to develop a more sustainable tire by exploring secondary and renewable materials, as well as natural rubber substitutes.

In 2021, VW said it took a series of initiatives to source more sustainable raw materials, including leather and natural rubber.

As part of that, the German group joined the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) and supported the development of reporting requirements for companies in rubber supply chains.

“In 2021, we achieved substantial results in collecting supplier information through our supply chain mapping questionnaire and conducting comprehensive mapping up to the source.

“We have so far identified approximately 500 actors in our rubber supply chain, achieving transparency up to tier 4,” the German group said.

For every identified supply chain actor, VW said it had piloted “a systematic risk assessment” that incorporates responsible sourcing risk data.

“In the future, we are going to test it on our other raw materials, too,” it said.

VW said it had also conducted “media monitoring” and reviewed relevant research publications to gain insight into industry-specific risks.

“Our focus in 2021 was on increasing transparency in the natural rubber sector and addressing the lack of credible, industry-wide sustainability standards.

“As GPSNR members, we are contributing to the development of reporting requirements to be implemented during 2022 for rubber suppliers," it added.

The group is also also contributing to GPSNR's 'shared responsibility framework' which aims to further advance the development of sector-specific standards.

In addition to the GPSNR membership, VW highlighted an initiative by Porsche and Michelin in 2020 to support local rubber producers in Indonesia, raise awareness and address responsible sourcing issues on the ground.

Based on risk assessment results to date, VW said it was preparing to start more targeted risk mitigation measures in 2022.