Supply Chain Characteristics that Impact Traceability

Traceability Takeaways

  • Migrant workers are present on rubber plantations in some geographies and may be at a high risk of forced labor and exploitation. Traceability systems that allow for identification of individual plantations can enable data collection on and assessment of labor brokers and migration pathways.
  • In addition to large commercial plantations, many rubber producers are smallholder farms. These producers may lack access to capital for the technology needed to implement intensive forms of traceability and/or the administrative capacity for bureaucratic implementation. Traceability systems should incorporate assistance for the participation of small-scale producers so that traceability efforts do not have the unintended consequences of further marginalizing small producers. 
  • Rubber from smallholders is mixed and aggregated at multiple downstream points in the supply chain. Rubber from small farms may be sold to larger local plantations or middlemen. Product tracking approaches that permit mixing of materials from different sources (such as Mass Balance) are more likely to be more flexible and feasible approaches in rubber supply chains.

Nature of Labor Rights Risk/Vulnerable Workers

Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by U.S. Government

Child Labor cited by U.S. Government

Risk of Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by other source

Risk of Child Labor cited by other source

Documented presence of migrant workers

Documented presence of other vulnerable workers

Documented presence or significant likelihood of third-party labor recruiters

Features of Production and Supply Chain

Large numbers of dispersed, unorganized or informal small producers or other worksites

Multiple points of aggregation, co-mingling, and/or transformation across supply chain

Complex/opaque supply chains and/or lack of vertical integration

High degree of flexibility in procurement practices of downstream entities

  • In Indonesia, 90 percent of natural rubber is produced on smallholder farms.12Tan, Gerald. “Indonesian Natural Rubber Smallholder Economics.” Halycon Agri, July 20, 2018. Smallholder rubber farmers generally sell their rubber to large local plantations or middlemen, while large rubber plantations can sell directly to the open market or to wholesale traders.13“Rubber Commodity Atlas Research Page with a Map.” Verité, February 14, 2022.
  • Due to how frequently rubber is bought and sold by traders, distributors, and brokers in Southeast Asian supply chains, the origin of rubber is frequently hidden, particularly at the distribution or manufacturing level.14U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). A Value Chain Assessment of the Rubber Industry in Indonesia, June 2007.; “Rubber Commodity Atlas Research Page with a Map.” Verité, February 14, 2022.
  • Rubber is frequently mixed together with other compounding ingredients at processing facilities prior to being distributed, adding complexity and opacity to the supply chain.15Dick, John S. and P. Rader. Raw Materials Supply Chain for Rubber Products: Overview of the Global Use of Raw Materials, Polymers, Compounding Ingredients, and Chemical Intermediates. Hanser Publications, 2014.

Distribution of Labor Risk in Various Production Areas

Scale or nature of risk is present across multiple tiers or nodes of supply chain (including in associated downstream or upstream goods)

Scale or nature of risk varies significantly based on geographic area of production

Scale or nature of risk is strongly associated with certain types of suppliers/entities

  • Nature of risk for forced labor and child labor is present in both smallholder farms and large plantations.16Verité. Responsible Sourcing Tool – Rubber, 2023.
  • Forced labor and child labor is present in downstream nodes of the supply chain, notably in the rubber glove manufacturing industry.

Linked Upstream and Downstream Risks

Risk in Nodes in Rubber Production

The cultivation of rubber has three main stages: planting and maintenance, tapping and harvesting, and processing and manufacturing. The first stage of production is very labor intensive and requires constant maintenance to produce the highest quality rubber. Once mature (usually after the eighth year of growth), the rubber tree can be tapped year-round and requires constant pruning and weeding.17Verité. Rubber Production in Liberia: An Explanatory Assessment of Living and Working Conditions, with Special Attention to Forced Labor. Once harvested, the latex is processed into sheets and dried in facilities on the farm or plantation prior to being sold. Smallholder farms frequently sell their rubber to larger plantations, which subsequently sell directly to the open market, or to regional wholesalers or traders. Such traders or wholesalers often finance the transport and distribution of the rubber between the plantation and manufacturer. In this node of the supply chain, rubber can be bought and sold several times, creating opacity in the supply chain.18Verité. Rubber Production in Liberia: An Explanatory Assessment of Living and Working Conditions, with Special Attention to Forced Labor. Once at the manufacturer, rubber is generally mixed with compounding ingredients and other natural rubber before being sent to final retailers and consumers. Forced labor and child labor occur most frequently at the early stages of production, particularly among the planting and tapping nodes of the supply chain, however, forced and child labor can be present in downstream processing nodes as well.19Verité. Responsible Sourcing Tool – Rubber, 2023  

Planting and Maintenance

Tapping and Harvesting

Processing and Manufacturing

Marketing and Final Retail

Associated Downstream Goods and Consumer Sectors


Roughly 70 percent of produced natural rubber is used for airplane and large transport vehicle tires.

Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals

Rubber is one of the world’s most versatile resources; more than 40,000 products worldwide use natural rubber as a material, including rubber gloves.

Textiles Apparel and Luxury Goods

Rubber is used in the production of some footwear, including sandals.

Top Global Countries

  1. Thailand20 International Trade Centre. Trade Map, 2021. List of exporters for the selected product in 2021 Product: 4001 Natural rubber, balata, gutta-percha, guayule, chicle and similar natural gums, in primary forms or in plates, sheets or strip. ITC Trade Map,
  2. Indonesia
  3. Côte d’Ivoire
  4. Vietnam
  5. Malaysia
  6. Cambodia
  7. Belgium
  8. Myanmar
  9. Laos
  10. Guatemala
  1. Thailand21Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAOSTAT 2021 Report, 2021.
  2. Indonesia
  3. Viet Nam
  4. China
  5. India
  6. Cote d’Ivoire
  7. Malaysia
  8. Philippines
  9. Cambodia
  10. Myanmar

Examples & Resources: Traceability Efforts Associated With Rubber