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← How supply chain transparency can help the planet

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Showing Revision 8 created 02/13/2020 by Erin Gregory.

  1. In almost all aspects of our lives
  2. we have perfect information
    available instantaneously.
  3. My phone can tell me
    everything about my finances,
  4. where precisely I am on a map
  5. and the best way to my next destination,
  6. all with a click of a button.
  7. But this availability
    of information and transparency
  8. almost completely disappears
    when it comes to consumer products.
  9. If you go to the seafood counter
    at your local supermarket,

  10. you can probably choose
    between several different types of fish.
  11. But chances are,
    they won't be able to tell you
  12. who caught the fish,
    where precisely it was caught,
  13. whether it is sustainable
    to catch it there
  14. and how it got transported.
  15. And that holds true
    for almost everything we buy.
  16. Every can of soup,
  17. every piece of meat, every T-shirt.
  18. We as humans, right now,

  19. are destroying the only thing
    we really need to survive:
  20. our planet.
  21. And most of the horrible problems
    that we're facing today,
  22. like climate change
  23. and modern slavery in supply chains,
  24. come down to decisions.
  25. Human decisions to produce something
    one way and not another.
  26. And that's how we, as consumers,
  27. end up making decisions
    that harm the planet
  28. or our fellow humans.
  29. By choosing the wrong products.
  30. But I refuse to believe
    that anybody here in this room,
  31. or frankly, anybody on this planet,
  32. really wants to buy a product
  33. that harms the planet
    or our fellow humans
  34. if given the choice.
  35. But you see, choice is a loaded word.

  36. Choice means there's another option.
  37. Choice means you can afford that option.
  38. But choice also means
  39. you have enough information
    to make an informed decision.
  40. And that information nowadays
    simply just doesn't exist.
  41. Or at least it's really,
    really hard to access.
  42. But I think this is about to change.
  43. Because we can use technology
    to solve this information problem.
  44. And many of the specific technologies
    that we need to do that
  45. have become better and cheaper
    over the recent years,
  46. and are now ready to be used at scale.
  47. So, over the past two years,

  48. my team and I have been working
  49. with one of the world's largest
    conservation organizations, WWF,
  50. and we've founded a company called OpenSC,
  51. where SC stands for supply chain.
  52. And we believe that by using technology
  53. we can help to create
  54. transparency and traceability
    in supply chains,
  55. and through that,
    help to completely revolutionize
  56. the way that we buy
    and also produce products as humans.
  57. Now, some of this is going to sound
    a little bit like science fiction,
  58. but it's already happening.
  59. Let me explain.
  60. So, in order to solve
    this information problem,

  61. we need to do three things:
  62. verify, trace and share.
  63. Verify specific sustainability
  64. and ethical production claims
  65. in a data-based and automated way.
  66. Then trace those
    individual physical products
  67. throughout their supply chains,
  68. and finally, share
    that information with consumers
  69. in a way that truly gives them a choice
  70. and lets them make consumption decisions
  71. that are more aligned with their values.
  72. I'm going to use a real product
  73. and a supply chain where we've made
    all of this a reality already:
  74. a Patagonian toothfish,
  75. or Chilean sea bass,
    as it's called in the US.
  76. Number one, verify.

  77. Verify how something is produced.
  78. But not just by saying,
    "Trust me, this is good,
  79. trust me, we've done
    all the right things,"
  80. but by producing evidence
    for that individual physical product,
  81. and the way it was produced.
  82. By producing evidence
  83. for a specific sustainability
    or ethical production claim.
  84. So for example, in the case of the fish,
  85. has this fish been caught in an area
    where there's enough of them,
  86. so that it's sustainable
    to catch it there
  87. and not in a marine protected area?
  88. So what we're doing here
  89. is we're taking almost real-time
    GPS data from the ship --
  90. the ship that's fishing --
  91. and that tells us where the ship is
  92. and where it's going at what speed.
  93. And we can then combine that
    with other types of data,
  94. like, for example,
    how deep the sea floor is.
  95. And combining all of this information,
  96. our machine-learning algorithms
    can then verify, in an automated way,
  97. whether the ship is only fishing
    where it's supposed to, or not.
  98. And as sensors become cheaper,

  99. we can put them in more places.
  100. And that means we can capture more data,
  101. and combining that
    with advancements in data science,
  102. it means that we can now verify
  103. specific sustainability
    and ethical production claims
  104. in an automated, real-time
    and ongoing manner.
  105. And that really lays the basis
    for this information revolution.
  106. So, number two, trace.

  107. Trace those individual physical products,
  108. so that we can truly say
  109. that the claim that we've verified
    about a certain product
  110. actually belongs
    to that individual product
  111. that we as consumers
    have right in front of us.
  112. Because without
    that level of traceability,
  113. all that we've really
    verified in the first place
  114. is that somebody, somewhere, at some point
  115. caught a fish in a sustainable way,
  116. or didn't harm the employee
    when asking them to produce a T-shirt,
  117. or didn't use pesticides when growing
    a vegetable that didn't actually need it.
  118. Only if I give a product
    an identity from the start
  119. and then trace it
    throughout the whole supply chain,
  120. can this claim and the value
    that's been created
  121. by producing it in the right way
  122. truly stay with it.
  123. Now, I've talked about cheaper sensors.

  124. There are many other
    technological developments
  125. that make all of this much more possible
    today than every before.
  126. For example, the falling costs of tags.
  127. You give a product a name,
  128. a serial number, an identity,
  129. the tag is its passport.
  130. What you can see here
    is a toothfish being caught.

  131. This is what's called a longline fishery,
  132. so the fish are coming up
    onto the boat on individual hooks.
  133. And as soon as the fish is on board,
  134. it is killed, and then after that,
  135. we insert a small tag
    into the fish's flesh.
  136. And in that tag, there is an RFID chip
    with a unique serial number,
  137. and that tag follows the fish
    throughout the whole supply chain
  138. and makes it really easy
    to sense its presence
  139. at any port, on any truck
    or in any processing plant.
  140. But consumers can't really read RFID tags.
  141. And so, when it comes to filleting
    and packaging the fish,
  142. we read the RFID tag and then remove it.
  143. And then we add a unique QR code
    to the packaging of the fish.
  144. And that QR code then points back
    to the same information
  145. that we've verified about the fish
    in the first place.
  146. And so, depending on the type
    of product that we're working with,

  147. we may use QR codes, bar codes, RFID tags
  148. or other tag technologies.
  149. But there are also technologies
  150. that are at the brink
    of large-scale breakthrough
  151. that make tags themselves obsolete.
  152. Like, for example,
  153. analyzing a product for trace elements
  154. that can then tell you quite accurately
    where it is actually from.
  155. Then there's blockchain.
  156. A decentralized technology
    can act as a catalyst for this revolution.
  157. Because it can help mitigate
    some of the trust issues
  158. that are inherent
    to giving people information
  159. and then asking them
    to change their consumption behavior
  160. because of that information.
  161. And so, we use blockchain technology
  162. where it adds value to what we're doing.
  163. But importantly,
  164. we don't let the limitations
    that this technology still has today,
  165. like, for example,
    with regards to scaling,
  166. we don't let that stand in our way.
  167. And that brings us to the third point.

  168. Share.
  169. How to share the information
    that we've verified and tracked
  170. about where a product is from,
    how it was produced
  171. and how it got to where it is?
  172. How to share this information
  173. is really different
    from product to product.
  174. And different from where you buy it.
  175. You behave differently
    in those situations.
  176. You are stressed and time-poor
    in the supermarket.
  177. Or with short attention span over dinner,
  178. because your date is so cute.
  179. Or you are critical and inquisitive
  180. when researching
    for a larger purchase online.
  181. And so for our fish,
  182. we've developed a digital experience
  183. that works when buying the fish
    in a freezer in a fish specialty store
  184. and that gives you all of the information
    about the fish and its journey.
  185. But we also worked with a restaurant
  186. and developed a different
    digital experience
  187. that only summarizes the key facts
    about the fish and its journey,
  188. and works better in a dinner setting
  189. and, hopefully, there
    doesn't annoy your date too much.
  190. Now, that brings us full circle.

  191. We've verified that the fish was caught
  192. in an area where
    it's sustainable to do so.
  193. We've then traced it throughout
    the entire supply chain
  194. to maintain its identity and all
    the information that's attached to it.
  195. And then, we've shared
    that information with consumers
  196. in a way that gives them a choice
  197. and lets them make consumption decisions
  198. that are more in line with their values.
  199. Now, for this fish example,
    this is already rolled out at scale.

  200. This season,
  201. the entire fleet of the world's largest
    toothfish fishing company,
  202. Austral Fisheries,
  203. is tagging every single fish
    that they catch
  204. and that ends up in their premium
    branded "Glacier 51" product.
  205. And you can already buy this fish.
  206. And with it, you can have all
    of the information I talked about today,
  207. and much more,
  208. attached to each individual fish
    or portion of the fish that you may buy.
  209. But this is not a fish or seafood thing.

  210. We're working on many, many
    different commodities and products
  211. and their supply chains across the globe.
  212. From dairy to fruit and vegetables,
  213. to nonfood products made out of wood.
  214. As a consumer, all of this
    may sound like a huge burden,
  215. because you don't have time
    to look at all of this information
  216. every time you buy something.
  217. And I don't expect you to,
  218. because you'll have help with that.
  219. In the future, we'll leave the decision
    of which specific product to buy

  220. increasingly up to machines.
  221. An algorithm will know enough about you
  222. to make those decisions for you,
    so you don't have to.
  223. And maybe it will even do
    a better job at it.
  224. In a recent study, 85 percent of those
  225. buying a product
    through a virtual assistant
  226. said that they, on occasion,
  227. actually went with the top
    product recommendation
  228. of that virtual assistant,
  229. rather than the specific product or brand
  230. that they set out
    to buy in the first place.
  231. You just say you need toilet paper,
  232. it's then an algorithm that decides
    which brand, price point
  233. or whether you go with recycled or not.
  234. Well, nowadays this is usually based
    on what you bought in the past,
  235. or whoever pays the most to the company
    behind the virtual assistant.
  236. But why shouldn't that be also
    based on your values?
  237. Knowing that you want
    to buy planet-friendly

  238. and knowing whether and how much
    you're willing and able to pay for that.
  239. Now, that will make it easy and seamless,
  240. but still based
    on granular effects and data
  241. to choose the right products.
  242. Not by necessarily doing it yourself
  243. but by asking an algorithm
  244. that knows how much you care
    about this planet.
  245. Not by necessarily doing it yourself
  246. but by asking an algorithm
  247. that is never time-poor or distracted,
  248. or with short attention span
    because of the cute date,
  249. and that knows how much
    you care about this planet
  250. and the people living on it,
  251. by asking that algorithm to look
    at all of that information for you
  252. and to decide for you.
  253. If we have reliable
    and trustworthy information like that

  254. and the right systems that make use of it,
  255. consumers will support those
    who are doing the right thing
  256. by producing products
    in a sustainable and ethical way.
  257. They will support them every time
  258. by choosing their goods over others.
  259. And that means that good
    producers and processors and retailers
  260. will get rewarded.
  261. And bad actors will be forced
    to adjust their practices
  262. or get out of business.
  263. And we need that.
  264. If we want to continue to live together
    on this beautiful planet,
  265. we really need it.
  266. Thank you.

  267. (Applause)