Dialog on natural rubber in Sri Lanka

Public in Sri Lanka listening to Trelleborg dialog on sustainable practices
Trelleborg regularly engages its rubber suppliers in proactive dialog on sustainable practices: the Sri Lankan plant’s activities exemplify Trelleborg’s commitment to corporate responsibility.

Today, all of the big manufacturers which care about sustainability engage in ongoing dialog with their direct suppliers regarding their code of conduct, compliance and sustainable practices. Trelleborg is no exception to this rule, and the polymer engineering world leader is proud of its achievements.

“We have a mix of traditional supplier questionnaires that cover all our repeat suppliers, so that we know that they are compliant with our Code of Conduct; we also conduct audits of suppliers, visiting them on-site to make sure that their operations measure up to our high standards. Of course, there is always room for improvement in business, but we have yet to encounter any significant non-compliance issues with our direct suppliers,” says Rosman Jahja, Trelleborg’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility.

Sanjay Melvani

“Periodic supplier days are organized by the Trelleborg Sri Lankan plant,” says Sanjay Melvani, Managing director for the Trelleborg units in Sri Lanka. Inviting suppliers to our site gives us the opportunity to raise awareness of our Code of Conduct and business ethics, while showing local rubber producers our appreciation of their contribution. When suppliers see the Trelleborg plant in action, and meet the senior managers, they get direct access to business know-how and gain confidence in working with Trelleborg, knowing that they are recognized and appreciated.” 

Dialog with natural rubber producers is a long-standing, high priority for Trelleborg. First-tier suppliers of natural rubber are usually big companies: some are producers, but most are traders. There may be one or two tiers separating the suppliers and the actual rubber tree owners. As such, rubber farmers often have small family companies in rural areas, making it more challenging for Trelleborg to visit and audit the latex production itself. Yet, there are other smart ways to communicate.

“In Sri Lanka, where Trelleborg is a much bigger customer than in South East Asia or Africa, we have taken our supplier dialogue practices one step further. By organizing events in villages, we have managed to gather more than 1,000 farmers’ representatives to talk about human rights, child labour and other important requirements within our Code of Conduct,” says Rosman Jahja.

Through increased dialogue, rubber producers have picked up best practices in their industry, met with colleagues, and gained a better understanding of Trelleborg’s Code of Conduct; suppliers have also gained insight into how their rubber is used for hi-tech solutions by Trelleborg.

“We have the impression that – at least in Sri Lanka – the natural rubber situation is positive on the whole, and that potential violations, such as child labour or intolerable working conditions, are very rare. What’s important to local rubber producers is that they improve their families’ economic situation; they can do this, they tell us, by giving their children access to good schooling and education,” comments Jahja.

As for natural rubber from other parts of the world, Trelleborg’s dialog with first-tier suppliers continues: “Our goal is to buy rubber only from suppliers who are able to prove that their supply does not come from unsustainable practices – such as deforestation – or violate human rights of any kind. We will keep educating our purchasing professionals on where and how to source. Admittedly, tracking exactly where the purchased rubber comes from can be challenging, but as technology evolves, this too will become more transparent.”

For more information: Compliance