Technology Record - Issue 24: Spring 2022

146 www. t e c h n o l o g y r e c o r d . c om F E ATUR E Whether it is healthier alternatives to sugary drinks and meat, clean beauty products and vitamin supplements, or clothing made from recycled materials – consumers are demanding that retail brands produce products that are better for their health and for the planet. Recognising this growing number of consumers who want to purchase products that have been sourced, manufactured and sold with the least impact to the environment, retail brands are now transforming both their product portfolios and the way they operate. “The origin of a raw material or ingredient – whether it’s sugar, dairy, cocoa, coffee, fish, cotton or leather – is becoming as critical as the right caloric content, fit and finish when consumers are choosing products,” Shanthi Rajagopalan, senior director of worldwide retail and consumer goods strategy at Microsoft. “This is leading to a growing number of retailers and consumer goods (CGs) companies investing in sustainable farming, forestry, fishing and sourcing to ensure a quality supply of raw materials will be available for years to come.” To achieve this, retailers and CGs must be able to accurately calculate the environmental impact of every individual process and product across their end-to-end supply chains – from sourcing the raw materials to what happens at the end of the product’s life cycle. And to satisfy consumers who want to make the most sustainable product choices, they must make this data as transparent as possible. However, they find it difficult to gather accurate and reliable data from their suppliers, particularly as they move beyond Tier 2 suppliers. And if they do obtain this data, they struggle to make sense of it. “Retailers and CGs get sustainability data from multiple sources – including suppliers, facilities, utilities, business units – and it is often manually reported in many different formats, such as spreadsheets, databases and paper,” explains Rajagopalan. “Consequently, while retailers and CGs may have a lot of data, they struggle to gather, normalise and use it effectively to record and report their emissions and other factors. This is compounded by the fact that there are multiple calculation methodologies and standards, which results in what many call ‘reporting season’ – the several months it takes them and an army of temporary workers to gather and submit required reporting.” Microsoft’s Shanthi Rajagopalan explains how stakeholders across the retail industry are using technologies from Microsoft and its partners to make supply chains, operations and products more sustainable, while reducing waste and emissions BY R E B E CCA G I B SON Turning insight into action