We love Fair Trade at 69b because it ensures a fair deal for farmers and workers. But the Fairtrade certification doesn’t cover all raw materials, and one thing it doesn’t certify is rubber.
Natural rubber is the sap of the tropical tree Hevea Brasiliensis. It’s used to make everything from mattresses to condoms and wellies. Around 90% of the world’s supply is grown in Asia, particularly Thailand and Indonesia, and most of it is produced by small farmers.
Why rubber isn't Fairtrade
So why isn’t rubber a prime target for the Fairtrade label, when it’s primarily produced by small farmers who are severely impacted by global market prices?
One reason is that rubber has always been a key component in the production of car tyres, and the car industry accounts for around 70% of natural rubber consumption. And you would have to be a very committed supporter of Fair Trade indeed to use it to choose one car over another.
Secondly, most rubber products can also be made with synthetic rubber, which isn’t covered by Fair Trade.
The fluctuations in the price of petroleum, which is the key component of synthetic rubbers, has a huge impact on the price for both synthetic and natural rubber. The low market price paid for rubber makes it very difficult for the tappers, plantation workers and small farmers to support themselves and their families.
Supporting natural rubber producers
This is where the Fair Rubber Association steps in. They pay a Fair Trade premium to the primary producers to ensure that even when the world market price is depressed, the costs of production are covered, allowing them to improve their working and living conditions. The Association also ensures that rubber is tapped in a way that ensures the natural life cycle of trees, by not taking too much from each tree every day.
Natural rubber products at 69b
We’re proud to stock Sleepers flip flops, which are made from premium grade natural rubber from the Horana Plantations in Sri Lanka under Fairtrade conditions guaranteed by the Fair Rubber Association. In order to ensure transparency, each flip flop is marked with the plantation the rubber comes from.