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Green data, clean environment

Green data, clean environment
(Image credit: Pixabay)

COP25 has brought with it even more pressure on governments and businesses to take climate change seriously. Consumers now demand that brands integrate sustainability or they risk extinction. 

Environmentally-aware consumers don’t just want to make the world a better place; a survey by Futerra found that 96% of people believe behaviour and purchasing choices fuel real change. These consumers recognise they have a social responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint, and this is driving purchasing decisions.

About the author

Richard Baker, CEO of GeoSpock.

As consumers demand the demonstration of good corporate citizenship with a strong eco commitment, brands must strike a balance between what is right for their businesses with what is right for humanity and the environment.

Already we’re seeing reaction and response – recently, John Lewis confirmed its first plastic-free bag trial in Oxford, while Vodafone has announced an initiative to sell more sustainable phones by the end of this year. But more needs to be done across the industry if brands are to remain in consumers’ shopping baskets. Products must tell sustainable stories across the supply chain, allowing consumers to track this from production to delivery.

Creating clean supply chains

In Denmark, for example, the government is working with supermarkets on creating labels that explain food products’ carbon footprints. While the idea of carbon labelling has been around for some time, there are very few brands that provide this level of visibility. In 2012, Tesco dropped a plan to label its product with its carbon footprint because of the amount of work involved in calculating the figure.

However, nearly a decade on and this challenge is becoming less daunting. Sensors are now embedded into innocuous everyday objects. All of these items are now linked by the internet, sharing intelligence that can be used to deliver greater transparency into the provenance of individual products.

Take small frequent buys that have a high environmental impact - such as perishable food or supermarket flowers. Sensors in the form of Radio Frequency Identification transmitters and GPS systems are used to track goods as they move from the production plant to storage facilities and are transported onto shop shelves.

This intelligence can be used to give consumers an accurate view of where products have travelled. Brands can also capture the emissions produced by every vehicle or vessel involved in the transportation process and relay this back to customers.

Interestingly, QR codes are providing the answer and meeting customers demand for more transparency. Using QR codes to access extra information might not be new exactly, but using spatial big data platforms, QR codes can read digital barcodes to provide deeper insights.

Instead of simply enabling consumers to simply check brand credentials – such as safety certificates and distribution licences – QR codes can open apps that provide visualisations of product journeys. Route maps can even show precise movement of shipments from source to store and provide compelling proof of supply chain integrity through leveraging vast sets of data on a product’s location and environment.  

IoT initiatives for a sustainable future

Armed with greater intelligence, brands have an opportunity to optimise their operations to achieve greater efficiency and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

The insight on the movement of goods can be combined with information such as temperature, humidity levels and shipping times. By combining the data sets available, brands can improve distribution models. For example, food with a short shelf life can be sent to a nearby destination with high-demand to limit food wastage.

Brands can also streamline delivery services - something that’s particularly important given the explosion in online shopping.

Brands can use data from IoT-enabled devices such as connected cars, wearables and even the SIM cards that delivery drivers use. Each one represents a point of interest on the move, meaning its route can be accurately determined.

Brands can analyse driver routes using fleet management software, calculate average drop times, dwell times, as well as distances between drops. Density analysis reveals when multiple drivers are operating in the same area at the same time, while additional data sets can reveal whether drops were successful or not.

By leveraging IoT data, brands can evaluate driver routes against delivery data – including pick-up windows and fulfilment times, and logistics tools such as ERP software. This information can then be combined with information on pollution levels, congestion areas and even weather forecasting, to define which routes will keep both costs and emissions low.

Changing tides of sustainability

With consumer having an unprecedented amount of information available to them, they are making carefully considered purchases. They research products and buy items that align with their values.

To engage with a new generation of consumers, brands need to be authentic and integrate sustainability into the fabric of their brands. They need to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions through greater transparency. Going green not only attracts sustainably conscious consumers, but also helps reduce business costs.

By harnessing and utilising data efficiently, tech can help brands optimise operations to reduce their carbon footprint and provide heightened visibility to consumers on product provenance. This will lead to increased innovation and more technology in this field. It’s a small, incremental change that can ultimately help contribute to a greater cause.