Using Satellite Imagery to Monitor Deforestation in Supply Chains

The sugar in your coffee, the palm oil in your shampoo, the leather in your shoes – any of these might come from plantations on recently deforested land. The sheer number of small farms around the world makes it very difficult to know if a specific product is tied to deforestation. Take leather: in Brazil alone there are over one million cattle ranches, many carved out of virgin forest, all of which supply hides to tanneries around the world via intermediaries. A convergence of new technologies is finally making it possible to know whether a product was sourced in a way that contributed to deforestation:

  • Mobile Traceability: The first step is to find out precisely where things come from. In the past this could only be achieved using printed barcodes read by custom scanners in industrial settings. Today, smartphones and survey apps such as the free Open Data Kit allow anyone, anywhere to capture the location of commodities as they change hands from farmer to trader to processor, etc... Buyers and sellers can even create electronic receipts by signing with their fingers on the device's touch screen!
  • Enterprise Social Networks: Before the social web, companies would have found it too resource-intensive to keep track of hundreds of thousands of suppliers in their extended supply chain. Today multi-enterprise social networks like Sourcemap connect all of the companies in a supply chain - no matter how small or remote - to ensure an unbroken chain of custody from raw materials to finished goods.
  • Satellite Imagery: Projects like the Global Forest Watch measure deforestation through satellite imagery processed to highlight changes in forest cover. By combining the real-time satellite feed with a map of where products come from, it becomes possible to measure the likelihood of sustainable (or unsustainable) farming practices and more effectively target interventions on the ground.

At Sourcemap we have integrated Open Data Kit and Global Forest Watch into the first GIS-enabled Enterprise Social Network for monitoring deforestation in supply chains. The platform is being pilot-tested in environmentally sensitive regions of northern Brazil. Want to find out more about this and our other platforms for traceability, monitoring and evaluation?