Several key challenges are facing global supply chains, with a lack of transparency allowing for unethical practices to continue.
In palm oil, for example, deforestation is a major concern. According to FAO data, palm oil has contributed to an estimated 5% of tropical deforestation in tropical areas, and globally the European Commission estimates that the commodity contributes to 2.3% of total deforestation.
In soy, deforestation is also front of mind for FMCGs looking to stamp out unsustainable practices. WWF estimates that two-thirds of soy imported to the UK comes from locations with high deforestation risk, including vulnerable ecosystems in South America.
The coffee supply chain is another exposed to challenges, largely in inequalities from crop to cup.
What role can technology play in uncovering these issues and identifying perpetrators? According to James Crawford, CTO of California-based Orbital Insight, technology is already helping brands made significant progress towards sustainability targets.
Orbital combines satellite images with geolocation data to provide specific information about the journey that palm oil fruit or soybeans travel from the plantation to a mill.
“We have seen some significant decreases [in deforestation] even though these companies have not been able to guarantee zero deforestation. We saw 75% less Indonesian forest lost in 2020 than we saw in 2019,” he told The FoodNavigator Podcast.
“We’re a very small part of that, but we’re proud to be part of the tracking of it, and ultimately part of the solution.”
Geneva-based Farmer Connect is also leveraging technology to boost transparency in global supply chains. The start-up is currently focusing on coffee and chocolate.
Farmer Connect uses multiple technologies to provide an end-to-end traceability solution. “We use blockchain in partnership with IBM…but it’s not only about blockchain,” CEO Michael Chrisment told us.
The company also uses cloud computing and addresses accessibility, connectivity, and explores ways it can leverage mobile technologies. “All of those technologies… are equally important to us.”
For full interviews with Orbital Insight and Farmer Connect on how technology is transforming transparency in global supply chains, tune into The FoodNavigator Podcast.