Factories risk water pollution in critical areas, damaging communities without visibility © Photo by: Planet One Images/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Factories risk water pollution in critical areas, damaging communities without visibility © Photo by: Planet One Images/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Free online platform aims to 'democratise' supply chain data

A free data platform has been launched that aims to “democratise” supply chain information and foster more collaboration between brands, industry bodies and civil society organisations.

The Open Supply Hub (OSH), a non-profit organisation headquartered in the US, allows companies to share supply chain data to increase visibility into issues such as worker exploitation, negative climate impacts and deforestation.

The online platform allows anyone to create a free account to view data and they can choose to upload information, which is then vetted by the OSH team.

“Open Supply Hub will boost collaboration for anyone working to address challenges such as child or forced labor, deforestation and climate change,” said OSH, which has received funding from companies including Amazon and Target.

Data fields include factory name, address, a unique ID for each factory, sector, product type, number of workers, and type of facility. An algorithm cleans and standardises the data. 

Katie Shaw, chief program officer at the OSH, told Supply Management the data could be used to check the links between different companies' supply chains and see where companies share connections to the same facilities. In turn, this would enable companies to identify opportunities to work together on supply chain improvements.

“There are enormous sets of data out there, locked away and considered proprietary information, or only available through inaccessible formats like PDFs or tables, embedded in websites, or it's in pay to play databases and product management systems. Not everyone has free and equal access to that data. We're opening up that data and enabling access to all,” she said.

The OSH is an expansion from the Open Apparel Registry, which provided a similar service for exclusively the apparel sector, where it mapped over 90,000 facilities.

Shaw said a better understanding of a company’s supply chain could help procurement teams drive efficiencies. It would help gauge opportunities for consolidation or allow them to see new areas and markets to move into.

Shaw added: “New legislation is coming in thick and fast. Getting ahead of that legislation is always going to be more cost-effective than reacting to it.”

Payal Luthra, global lead for textile and apparel at the WWF, told SM: “Across the board, the OSH data has been directly helping our work on water. The water risks are huge in the apparel sector in production hubs and are only going to get worse with climate change. Water is a vital resource, but the industry's actions are polluting rivers and ecosystems, threatening the health of communities and workers, and that has major financial and operational implications. 

“Companies need to take action for their own survival, but water challenges are immense, vast shared challenges. These challenges vary depending on the local context. No one company or supplier is able to solve these problems alone. The only way is for us to all work together with stakeholders. So there's a growing need to understand how we can work together on these challenges, where to find each other. And this is where data from the OSH can make a real difference.”

Luthra added the textiles and electronics sectors in particular would benefit from an awareness of where their facilities are and what communities they are affecting. 

She went on: “We really feel that companies should invest in their suppliers, in longer term relationships, and get involved on the ground to improve the health of these local communities. There are so many financial risks if companies don't take action. If you understand as much as possible about your supply chain, who you're working with, who your suppliers are, you can take action to reduce costs. In a lot of situations, you can save a lot of money if you have more information and can take the right actions.”

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London (Central), London (Greater)
Circa £50K
Insight Executive Group
London (Central), London (Greater)
Circa £60K
Insight Executive Group
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