After Years in the Making, TSC Launches Open Access CommodityMap

In May, 2024, The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) launched its CommodityMap platform, which is a cloud-based tool that predicts environmental and social priorities in agricultural supply chains. Not only does this tool provide valuable information about sustainability issues associated with certain sourcing regions but it is available for free and open to the public. In addition to identifying and prioritizing sustainability issues, the tool recommends ways to improve agricultural commodity supply chains.

According to Christy Slay, CEO of TSC, in a webinar introducing the tool, the idea started with a conversation over ten years ago with a number of companies wanting to improve on sustainability. They were “wanting to measure” and “know more about what was happening in their supply chain.” The key issue at the time was transparency; companies often didn’t know where the commodities they purchased originated from. This prompted TSC to start building a commodity map that focused on “pulling existing data together in a unique way to be able to solve being able to look into commodity supply chains and get an idea of where their origins are.” Their sustainability consortium members were the first with access and for several years they partnered on projects that focused on their supply chains. This, in turn, provided valuable feedback. Walmart foundation provided the funding so the current tool could be built.

Highlights about the tool as covered in the webinar:

  • 150 different crops are covered. These include all the major commodities that are “most commonly analyzed” or have “the highest impact” such as palm oil, cocoa, and soy. It also includes lots of “less common” commodities such as simple produce like lettuce and strawberries, in addition to fiber crops like cotton.
  • It covers six different sustainability issues. Environmentally, it looks at deforestation, biodiversity, and water. Socially, it looks at child labor, forced labor and governance.
  • Sources are from publicly available open data sets.
    • For deforestation, a model is used that TSC co-developed with the world Resource Institute and the University of Maryland.
    • Biodiversity is from Conservation International and WWF combined data sets
    • Their water model uses WRI’s Aqueduct tool
    • Child/enforced labor data is from the US Department of Labor
    • Governance indicators are from the World Bank
  • If a user does not know where the supply is from, TSC’s Trade Network model analyzes global production and trade statistics and will attribute “souring to one or more countries that the model identifies based on that trade and production data.”
  • Priorities are designated to determine recommendations for action. For example, in the below Demo Analysis, for Arabica Coffee, the Guji Zone in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia, high priority status has been identified for both Biodiversity and Governance, as indicated by the dark purple coding.
Source: The Sustainability Consortium

My notes on the tool:

First and foremost, this tool is authoritative. Sources are clearly provided and covered in detail in the Sources section, and are from publicly available open data sets. Showing transparency of original source data is a critical factor in establishing trust with users. Years of working hands on with industry partners on various supply chain initiatives and scenarios provides further credibility.

As mentioned in the webinar, access is open to all, regardless of role (researcher, student, company buyer or stakeholder, for example).

This tool provides access to sustainability data that can be tricky to find and potentially expensive as well. TSC provides access to a real-world tool that is helpful to all companies that source agricultural products, regardless of size or budget.

It is easy to use. You start off by inputing a name for the Analysis and choosing a volume unit and monetary unit. Next, you select and add a commodity from the drop down list and designate a purchasing country, which is required. Quantity purchased/volume is another required field to be entered. In answering the question, Do you know where [the commodity you selected] was grown?, there is an option for yes or no. If answering no, as mentioned above, the tool will use their Trade Network model to provide most likely countries for you. However, adding a grow location will improve results. You also have the option to enter a supplier name and amount spent. You can add an action as well (if you have taken actions to address sustainability issues related to the supply). The results are presented in a color coded, easy to digest chart.

TSC also has developed THESIS, a consumer products benchmarking platform for retailers and suppliers for assessing sustainability issues and performance within their supply chains. THESIS launched as The Sustainability Index in 2014 and is now powered by partner Sphera Supply Chain Sustainability (formerly SupplyShift). TSC is affiliated with Arizona State University, the University of Arkansas, and Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands.

There is much more to explore about CommodityMap. Start here!

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

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