Unilever trialling geolocation technology in supply chain

By Sean Galea-Pace
Unilever has announced it is piloting geolocation technology, in collaboration with Orbital Insight, to monitor its palm oil supply chain more effective...

The company has highlighted its intention to end deforestation across its supply chain, particularly in the cultivation of crops like palm oil and soy. Unilever was the first consumer goods company to publish a full list of the palm oil suppliers and third-party mills in its supply chain.

By partnering with Orbital Insight, Unilever is set to leverage geolocation data to identify the individual farms and plantations that are most likely to supply the palm oil mills in its extended supply chain. The technology utilises GPS data, both aggregated and anonymised, to enable Orbital Insight to spot traffic patterns. Where there is a consistent flow of traffic between an area of land and a mill, it represents a potential link.

By combining tens of thousands of satellite images with geolocation data and applying artificial intelligence and scalable data science, the new system will provide unique insight by showing the predicted likelihood that a farm or plantation is supplying any given mill. The initial pilot programme will test the technology at a small number of palm oil mills in Indonesia and soy mills in Brazil.

This new approach is thought to bring a new level of sophistication to traceability that has the potential to work on a massive scale for Unilever and the wider industry.

“Better monitoring helps all of us to understand what’s happening within our supply chains,” says Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer. “By companies coming together and using cutting-edge technology to carefully monitor our forests, we can all get closer to achieving our collective goal of ending deforestation.”

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