Southland Rubber: How rubber tappers reap the benefits of PEFC certification

PEFC certification saves forests and opens up international market access for rubber smallholders and commercial enterprises alike. However, the benefits of certification extend far beyond this: certification can also improve the working and living conditions of rubber tappers too. We spoke to three full-time rubber tappers, who are employed by Southland Rubber, about how PEFC certification had helped to improve their day-to-day working and living conditions.

Southland Rubber: How rubber tappers reap the benefits of PEFC certification

14 November 2022 News

Southland Rubber is a leading global producer of natural rubber, supplying high-quality block rubber, ribbed smoked latex sheets, and latex concentrate products to domestic and international rubber markets for over 35 years. This rubber might be used to craft the soles in the shoes you’re wearing now or in the tyres in the car that you drove to work today.

In order to demonstrate to international rubber buyers their multifaceted commitments to sustainable rubber production, forest protection, worker rights, and responsible sourcing and supply chains, Southland Rubber made the decision to obtain PEFC chain of custody certification in early 2021, and achieved chain of custody certification for their processing plant in Phatthalung, Southern Thailand in June 2022. 

However, the benefits of PEFC certification extend far beyond expanding market access for certified sustainable rubber. Tapping rubber is an extremely labour-intensive task that requires specialized skills and knowledge, as incorrect techniques when tapping rubber can significantly reduce the efficiency of rubber plantations and may even kill the rubber tree that is being tapped. PEFC certification, in combination with strict national standards, also includes provisions to respect and improve the working and living conditions of tappers and workers at rubber processing plants. PEFC endorses national standards, in this case, the Thailand Sustainable Forest Plantation Management (TIS 14061), which protects the working and living conditions of rubber workers as well as their health, safety, and labour rights.

We were delighted to speak to three rubber tappers who are employed by Southland Rubber full-time, Mr. Aud, Mr. Mhae, and Mr. Wirot, who told us how Southland has made significant progress in improving environmental and social issues by systematically adopting best practices, such as workplace health and safety conditions for rubber tappers.

Question: What’s changed for you at Southland Rubber in terms of your day-to-day working life?

Response: Things have changed drastically. Before, we didn’t have a concrete management plan for things like equipment care and storage. Nowadays, we follow a management system for our equipment, so that we can store and take care of equipment and tools properly.

We have also been provided with adequate first-aid kits, which has improved the confidence of workers if there are any workplace incidents. Luckily we haven’t had to use them yet!

Southland Rubber also regularly holds participatory meetings where we can voice our concerns on areas of improvement. One of the major areas we identified was an improvement in the living conditions of rubber tappers. 

Question: Can you describe the most significant change or improvements?

Response: Living conditions have improved, as previously we lived in a small building together when we were not working. Southland Rubber has installed walls to separate the building into private rooms, the new pavement around the building, rain gutters on the roof to manage water leakage, and new plumbing, toilets, and bathrooms for rubber tappers. We have more privacy, our building remains clean and dry, and the new amenities are very comfortable.

Southland Rubber has also improved the security of the building, by ensuring that security regulations are followed and that the fence and gate are regularly maintained. This makes us feel safer in the place where we live and work.

About PEFC’s sustainable rubber campaign: ‘PEFC is Here’ is PEFC's awareness campaign to promote the use of sustainably sourced rubber and rubber wood. As part of the campaign, we highlight companies and brands that prioritize environmental conservation by offering PEFC-certified rubber and rubberwood through case stories and graphics. If you source and sell PEFC-certified rubber and rubberwood products, join us today!