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GM Takes Lead in Sustainable Rubber Sourcing

Automaker hopes efforts slow deforestation, improve quality.

by on May.15, 2017

GM is working with its four primary tire suppliers, including Goodyear, toward more environmentally friendly rubber production.

General Motors is working with four major tire companies to emphasize a policy of sustainable, environmentally friendly rubber production that will move the industry and its complex supply chain toward net-zero deforestation while also upholding human and labor rights.

“Our supplier partners are an extension of our company,” said Steve Kiefer, GM senior vice president of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain said during a press conference in Detroit that included representatives from Bridgestone, Continental, Goodyear and Michelin the four companies that supply more than 80% of the tires to GM.

What a Conceptt!

“We want to encourage affordable, safer and cleaner options for our customers that drive value to both our organization and the communities in which we work.”

Kiefer said GM believes that sourcing tires produced using sustainable natural rubber will help in preserving and restoring primary forests and high conservation value and high carbon stock areas that are critical to addressing climate change and protecting wildlife.

(GM mends fences with suppliers. Click Here for the story.)

In addition, the policy will help improving yield and quality for natural rubber farmers, further supporting the small businesses that contribute 85% of the natural rubber. It also should help limit or mitigate business risk related to supply chain sourcing at the same time it helps assure long-term availability of a key commodity.

GM is committed to working with tire suppliers, governments, rubber industry associations and environmental nongovernmental organizations to drive alignment and reduce supply chain complexity, Kiefer added.

“We are about doing the right thing,” Kiefer said. But at same time “sustainable practices” also can help GM meet other key business goals for boosting growth and earnings while improving the quality of GM’s vehicle, he said.

(GM expanding list of automotive job cuts. Click Here for the latest.)

“They are not mutually exclusive,” Kiefer said.

Mark Purtilar, vice president of global procurement for Goodyear, said despite the changes in tire technology rubber still accounts for a significant portion of the material used in a tire. However, the amount of natural rubber used in a tire varies from roughly 15% in tires used in small cars to upwards of 30% in the large tires used on trucks.

Juan Botero, Continental vice president sales for original equipment, passenger and light truck tires in the Americas, said the tire industry has been working towards slowing down deforestation. Rubber trees grow in a relatively narrow band on both sides of the earth’s equator. “It means we do not have to use as much forested surface,” he said.

(To see more about GM’s battle with Greenlight Capital, Click Here.)

Peter Ramirez, Michelin North America Sustainability Project Manager, said Michelin has been actively pursuing sustainable practices in places such as Brazil for several years now. The announcement by GM gives the push for sustainable rubber a major boost, he said.

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