Sustainable Supply Chains – E16

Dived deep into supply chain sustainability with Allyson Quijano, Chief Sustainability Officer at Bext360, a SaaS platform to manage supply chain traceability and sustainability. We discussed how sustainability and risk management intersect at enterprises, how the team’s experience in the Congo drove the development of Bext360, how circular economy can affect traditional supply chain models, why blockchain technology is an amazing opportunity for green finance, how COVID has effected the understanding of supply chains and more!

MCWALTER:  Could you tell us a little bit about Bext360?

QUIJANO:   Best360 is a technology company working to digitize supply chains and prove the origin, authenticity, and sustainability of global commodities. In particular we are working to expand brand and corporation’s commitments to comprehensive traceability in the supply chains of products like coffee, cocoa, palm, essential oils and cotton from first mile origin to your retail space.

MCWALTER: How do you use blockchain technology?

QUIJANO:  We use the blockchain for some of its most basic aspects like immutable data tracking to improve the integrity of customer data. The crypto aspect of blockchain is also very purposeful for our business because we think of tokenization as a significant game changer in terms of trade finance. Because we tie into a cryptocurrency, you could execute payments at the first mile for your producers, if you’d like to. Because we use tokenisation, banks can use it to establish agreement or consensus around the specific value of a product at the point of processing. So this is where we think that the blockchain is absolutely necessary and makes that tokenisation aspect incredibly attractive and quite necessary for the changes that we’re looking to make in supply chain systems.

MCWALTER: What sorts of technologies do you need to integrate with?

QUIJANO:   We use them all and certainly plug into whatever systems are available. We’re working on building our portfolio to make carbon transactions more specific to each tier of the supply chain. So each processor in our system could offset their carbon or could have specific insight and analytics into what their carbon footprint is. For example, at the retail stage, we would look to plug into a point of sale system so that if you’re a customer buying a bag of coffee, and you want to offset the carbon footprint for that particular pounds of coffee, that could be made accessible through our system. 

Importantly, when customers don’t have systems that go all the way to the first mile, their first question is, ‘how do you get the data?” Maybe they’re a fashion company, and they plug into a cotton manufacturer, but the first four stages of that supply chain they have no insight into at all. So we use smaller hardware that operates offline, we use Bluetooth connectivity, and it collects a bunch of data, and help our customers design what information they want to collect from the producers. And we can plug that technology into scales, into printers, so you can have digital receipts. And that helps to get that first batch of data into the system. And then typically, the rest of it can be automated through existing inventory management systems that our customers already have in play.

MCWALTER: COVID seems to have brought supply chains to the forefront of many conversations, have you seen that? 

QUIJANO:  We are ecstatic that people like my parents are talking about supply chains! I think this makes us better consumers and enables us to pass the parent test. Just increasing the general knowledge of supply chain complications has already been helpful for us and our customers, because we feel like people better understand how complicated it is, for example, to get coffee beans from Central America to your morning cup of coffee.

MCWALTER: Are there opportunities for founders to build tools that improve the sustainability of brands? 

QUIJANO:  I would actually lead more in terms of sustainability services to corporations and brands. If you look at fashion companies, grocery store retailers or large coffee companies, sustainability is still not integral to their business. They are often part of a separate unit. A bit of my role is to work across business units to merge their goals into larger insights around sustainability. We spend an awful lot of time sharing information with people because often they don’t know where to begin. And I think so many brands are afraid of being under the microscope. I think any technology that makes it a less scary process and helps them navigate the smartest technologies, would be quite interesting.