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Opensource supply chain maps are changing the game for transparency

Sensemaking / Opensource supply chain maps are changing the game for transparency

Here are five ways Sourcemap is bringing complex supply chains to light, with benefits for business, producers and ecosystems.

By Anna Simpson / 10 Nov 2017

Before Harvey struck Houston, businesses rushed to see whether they had suppliers in the area. The tool they used was Sourcemap: an open source, interactive mapping platform that allows you to see where all the various elements in your supply chain are. How else is this platform being used to help supply chains achieve transparency and move towards sustainability? Here are five examples that show the emerging potential for opensource mapping to drive change on the ground.

1. Earlier in the year, chocolate company Hershey was the first major confectioner to announce plans to map its suppliers using Sourcemap. The map shows both the major ingredients and their locations – from farmers cooperatives to factories and other suppliers – incorporating photos and videos. For instance, you can see that the cocoa for Reese’s peanut butter cups comes from cooperatives on the Ivory Coast, while the almonds come from California and the milk fat from New Zealand.

2. Fairphone was the first electronics company to put its supply chain on Sourcemap, back in 2015, revealing the origin of more than 300 parts as part of its aspiration to create a sustainable smart phone.

3. Sourcemap has now been selected as the tool for the next iteration of the Higg Index – which was developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition to measure social and environmental sustainability across the apparel, footwear and textile industries. Its 190+ members include Walmart, Nike, H&M and the Gap.

4. The research project Hi-Viz, led by Bruce Arntzen, Executive Director of MIT’s Supply Chain Management Program, is using Sourcemap to create visualizations of supply chains (flow diagrams based on corporate databases) that reveal its weakest links. The visualizations superimpose other information, such as alerts of natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, earthquakes etc.) and social unrest (including strikes and protests), as well as bottlenecks and other data regarding speed and cost of supply. Not only does this protect companies from supply chain risk: it can also protect ecosystems from over-exploitation. Layering satellite data from Global Forest Watch reveals whether any products come from areas where there is a noticeable decrease in leaf cover – exposing any producers contributing to major deforestation of the Amazon, for instance.

5. Previously, most supply chain maps relied on company data. Now a major partnership formed in July 2017 combines Sourcemap and the blockchain-based transparency tool offered by Provenance, so that the supply chain can contribute data directly. As Sustainable Brands explains: “Sourcemap’s supply chain social network connects all of the suppliers and sub-suppliers in a global network, ensuring that they are who they say are, while Provenance’s blockchain technology is able to track every transaction between the suppliers in real-time, to verify that every product is sourced through the authorized chain of custody.”

This will minimise selective transparency, where companies only expose the elements they are proud to display, and also empower producers to connect more directly with each other, as well as exposing them to scrutiny. Take smallholder farmers. There are more than 500 million in Sub-Saharan Africa, making largely invisible contributions to global supply chains. Visibility can enable them to develop equitable and sustainable relationships with their buyers – and encourage businesses to invest directly in them. Sourcemap is partnering with the Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to develop the Cost of Inaction Calculator: a tool to reveal potential risks, particularly in the face of climate change, and show exactly where investments need to be made.

These wide-ranging partnerships demonstrate the roles we can all play towards greater visibility across supply chains, triggering action to make them more sustainable. Opensource maps accelerate our ability to assume these roles.

  • How could you put opensource maps to good use? 
  • How would you most like to see opensource maps used?
  • What examples have you seen of opensource maps driving change? What benefits emerged? 
  • What unintended outcomes could opensource mapping have? 
  • How effective will opensource maps be in tackling the challenge of inequality? 



Find out more in this video, as Sourcemap CEO Leonardo Bonanni shares his views on radical transparency:




Sourcemap and blockchain:

Sourcemap and visualization:

Sourcemap and Hershey:

Sourcemap and deforestation:

Sourcemap and Higg:

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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