A consortium of businesses including Deloitte and Unilever has completed a proof of concept for a global location register that buyers and investors can use to map the sustainability of their value chains.

Ordnance Survey (OS), a founding member of the Supply Chain Data Partnership (SCDP), says the group has reached a “major milestone” in its goal to make sure supply chains are transparent.

The SCDP independently verifies the location and environmental impact of assets like farms, mills, refineries and transport terminals, and users access data and certificates via the register.

“We can now demonstrate how location data and technology can help sustainability initiatives succeed by providing accuracy when it comes to monitoring, analysing and modelling solutions,” says Donna Lyndsay, strategic market lead at OS.

Set up at last year’s Cop27 climate conference, the partnership has so far focused on the supply chains for palm oil, soya and wood-based packaging.

The other founding members of the SCDP are GIS software company Esri UK and Earth imaging firm Planet Labs. It has also partnered with the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation and GS1 UK, the not-for-profit organisation that produces barcodes, with the aim of using GS1 standards in the register.

“New methods of locating and validating every part of a supply chain, involving satellite imagery, machine learning and mobile data collection, provide the authoritative and trusted data which has been missing until now,” says Charles Kennelly, group chief technology officer at Esri UK.

Regulatory scrutiny over environmental and social abuses in global supply chains has increased in recent years, requiring firms to have a much more detailed understanding of the companies in their value chain.

To be added to the register, asset owners have to provide a location that is checked using satellite imagery or data from the Trase initiative, which maps supply chains worldwide. If the asset is confirmed, owners receive a unique identifier.

Follow-up monitoring of environmentally and socially sustainable practices is carried out, the SCDP says, enabling firms to measure their sustainability progress and show where they are “upholding environmental and social standards for their own and their suppliers’ operations”.

“With certified locations held in the registry validating what they do on the ground, asset owners will be in a strong position to negotiate with buyers and access preferential green finance rates,” the SCDP says.

As yet, no decision has been made on whether a fee will be involved and the partnership is investigating different access models, with one option being that the asset owner pays a nominal amount annually.

“We are now keen to hear from any businesses who are interested in how the register can support their environmental and sustainability goals,” Lyndsay says.

The SCDP has also carried out a pilot involving monitoring soya farms in North and South America, and is now looking at funding to develop a minimum viable product.

A further long-term goal is to make this information available to consumers when they are choosing which products to buy.