Innovations in Sourcing, Part Two:

Advancing the Cause of Sustainability (and Digitizing It, Too)

 

In my last post, we saw how digital platforms, such as Inspectorio, are changing the way that retailers, brands, and suppliers approach quality control and compliance.

In this post, we’ll discover how technology is transforming sustainability, which continues to be of increasing importance to today’s consumer.

The Challenges of Sustainability Efforts

Sustainability initiatives are complex. They require many different people, from many different disciplines, doing a great deal of exacting work.

To ensure the effort being put into place is viable and credible, everyone needs to “row the same way” and measure progress in the same, secure manner.

In fact, the benefits of any work done around sustainability are lost if the information is not able to be shared or independently validated.

Fortunately, however, people have joined forces to “get on the same oar,” and because of this, we’re starting to see real traction on the sustainability front.

The Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, the 193 member countries of the United Nations adopted an agenda to end poverty, protect the planet, pursue peace, and ensure prosperity and well-being for all.

This agenda, called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), brings nations and enterprises together to support one cause: a sustainable future for generations to come.

Each goal has specific targets, as well as ways to measure progress. Even better, the environmental goals are now making their way into the world of sourcing.

Let’s see how.

Leading the Way with Blue Map

China has a serious pollution problem, and both the government and regular citizens are starting to take action against it.

Based in Beijing, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), is a non-profit organization that has created pollution databases to monitor environmental performance.

IPE’s goals are to: (1) make it easier for the public to participate in in environmental governance, and (2) hold polluters accountable.

Their latest creation, in partnership with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC),  is an app and database called Blue Map, a comprehensive online collection of environmental quality, emissions, and pollution source records.

It’s the only tool in the world to openly link leading multinational corporations to their suppliers’ environmental performance. Blue Map captures real-time data and historical trends in air pollution emissions and wastewater discharge for nearly 15,000 major industrial facilities in China.

You can click here to see an example of the Blue Map data, and here to see the IPE website.

How Blue Map Works

First, brands and retailers ask their suppliers to share information on key environmental metrics and upload them to an online framework. Then, the brands and retailers link themselves to their suppliers.

These two actions set Blue Map in motion. From here, brand, retailers, suppliers, and even the public can see how each factory is doing in terms of air pollution emissions and wastewater discharge.

In addition, all the data is stored in a digital, distributed ledger—the same technology as a blockchain—which means the information is updated quickly, encrypted, and highly visible.

Blue Map Benefits

Benefit #1: Organizations can see their full environmental impact and connect with the IPE for additional support analyzing and acting on their data.

Benefit #2: These same organizations can also see how they’re doing against their competitors. If they’re lagging behind, they can take steps to improve their performance; if they’re outpacing their peers, they’ve got a new and powerful selling point.

Benefit #3: Brands and retailers can actually deliver sustainability transparency to their customers, as well as evaluate their performance of their suppliers.

Benefit #4: The general public can easily access reliable environmental data on the brands and retailers they love, with confidence that this information is both valid and secure.

The Results So Far . . . Impressive!

Currently, more than 300 brands and retailers are participating in Blue Map. The great win is that they can all use—and benefit from—the same digital platform and environmental databases, without having to build these tools themselves.

Manufacturers win, too. They don’t have to learn (and comply with) a group of expectations for each of their retailers or brands. There is one set of environmental data for all.

And finally, the digital platform itself is also a winner. Once manufacturers upload their data, and brands and retailers link to it, real-time data is easily accessible in the Blue Map app.

Next Up, The Need for Speed

In my next article, we’ll talk about another trend affecting sourcing, that is, how the digital world is driving speed, which is changing expectations around both inventory management and customer service.

See you then.

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