Rubbed out: how European rubber imports and financing have driven the destruction of climate-critical forests in West and Central Africa

A new report investigates deforestation and land rights abuse allegations in central and western Africa by companies that supply top European tire makers like Michelin and Continental. The EU is home to the world’s top tire manufacturers, even though it does not produce any natural rubber, and rubber imports are currently not subject to the European nations’ deforestation regulations. Between 2000 and 2020, 200 square miles of forested area was likely destroyed to make way for industrial rubber plantations in six African countries, which together exported $503 million worth of natural rubber to the EU in 2020. Emphasizing the role of the EU, the report describes how rubber plantation owning companies are also heavily financed by European banks like Rabobank, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank. Top European tire makers, including France’s Michelin and Germany’s Continental AG, are sourcing rubber from agribusinesses implicated in deforestation and undermining land rights in western and central Africa, this report by the non-profit Global Witness found.