Breakthroughs for Global Supply Chains

One of the themes that emerged from our discussions about barriers is that global supply chains are siloed and not transparent.

When we look at what is needed urgently over the next 20 years, what are some of the breakthroughs we can expect (and potentially incentivize with a prize) that will break down those silos and create transparency?

For our purposes, breakthroughs are solutions to problems. A breakthrough is a discovery, development or disruption that causes significant, sometimes sudden or dramatic positive change in the trajectory of the future. Breakthroughs can be technological, social, political, cultural, economic, or a combination of these.

Hi @danhammer and @rgarrett - We would love to hear your thoughts on breakthrough solutions to create transparency in the global supply chains.

This is not going to be an especially helpful post, I’m afraid. I don’t think there is a singular breakthrough for supply chain transparency. Instead, tracking supply chains requires a crazy amount of triangulation from multiple, disparate sources — satellites, import/export records, banking disclosures.

We are learning this first-hand as we build Global Plastic Watch to track plastic waste from satellite imagery, and the supporting work that went into this data story that we built and this associated NYTimes article. The report is a combination of information from dozens of sources, with profound variation in the openness, cost, and reporting incentives for each dataset. It is unclear if there is any singular solution to harmonize data from such fundamentally disparate sources — and the problem is unavoidable, since triangulation/corroboration is critical to monitor supply chains in a robust and trustworthy way.

The one possible breakthrough, maybe, would be a way to index and serve data. Open protocols, robust taxonomy, and modern infrastructure. How do you index the supply chain data for search? Probably some standard codes like ISO 3166 for companies. How do you combine information from many small projects, like trase.earth, climatetrace.org, or Plastic Waste Makers Index? We are involved in a few of these projects, and try to organize the data internally to find comparisons, but the breakthrough solution would have to be much broader, much bigger.

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Thanks @danhammer for sharing these insights. This is really helpful.

Hi @hh27 and @mje1398 - curious to know your thoughts on breakthrough solutions to create transparency in the global supply chains.

Hi @marz62, @crointel and @rdrogers - In your views what are the emerging breakthrough solutions that could create transparency in the global supply chains.

Thank you @danhammer for candidly sharing your vast experience in this space. It is such a huge challenge when it comes to our global interconnectivity. Thinking of your last paragraph, I wonder if there are opportunities to alert on certain key aspects rather than the system as a whole? For example, If we think of the abundance of toxic materials in plastic packaging, can there be a way to mitigate the greenwashing of health claims? perhaps harnessing bio-based materials ability to react to their surrounding environment? or materials passport that takes current sustainability and ethics labels to the next level?

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Hi @roffenhe and @camly.tran - You might have thoughts to share on breakthrough solutions to create transparency in the global supply chains.

Hi @wennberg, @Mehta and @hyungjoo_lee - What are your thoughts on the emerging innovative solutions to create transparency in the global supply chains.

Hi @DidierC and @KeithDPatch - What are your thoughts on the emerging innovative solutions to create transparency in the global supply chains.

Sorry Shashi, no specific idea. In general, we need more reliable and open big data. All questions related to IP, trade secrets,… are generally making transparency very complicated. So making laws about transparency override laws about trade and IP secrets, would be a progress in my opinion. Didier

Thanks @DidierC for sharing your thoughts.