This Transparency Tool Makes it Easier for Big Business to Be Clean and Green
Big brands increasingly care about making their products cleaner and greener. Unfortunately, they have a hard time doing it. That’s because they rely on their suppliers, who manufacture the parts and products they eventually package and sell. Understanding the environmental and social impacts of suppliers is difficult for big companies. Getting their suppliers to improve their practices is even more difficult; it's much easier to install energy-efficient light bulbs in your own building than to convince someone else to do so in their building.
SupplyShift, a new tool to manage corporate supply chain sustainability, is about to change all of that. We just launched as a finalist in the "startup battlefield" at last month's TechCrunch Disrupt conference. Our goal is to see more sustainable goods produced, and lessen the negative impact of manufacturing overseas.
Here’s how it works: SupplyShift changes the way buyers and suppliers interact, by encouraging competition among suppliers to improve their sustainability practices. The platform also enhances opportunities for buyers to engage with their suppliers.
One of the biggest problems is that suppliers are increasingly required, by companies, to fill out numerous questionnaires—about labor practices, hazardous chemical, waste management, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions—but the suppliers have no idea how they compare to their industry peers, or how to improve their practices. So responding to these information requests becomes a time sink, and a distraction from sustainability innovation, rather than a motivator to improve.
SupplyShift solves this with a secure, cloud-based system that helps big companies rate supplier performance and engage them to improve. At its core, SupplyShift encourages competition by anonymously sharing the information and data that suppliers provide to their buyers. The access to information motivates suppliers to improve their practices, because maintaining a good relationship with their buyers is so critical. Buyers gain access to a network of more sustainable suppliers. And it provides a platform for buyers to communicate with their suppliers and share information, which helps turn information into action.
EcoShift Development, led by three Ph.D. environmental scientists and policy analysts, has just released a beta version of SupplyShift. The three founders are active academic researchers, hold positions at UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State University, and lead a sustainability consulting firm, EcoShift Consulting. They are driven by the belief that environmental problems can be solved by information transparency and incentives that encourage sustainability.