How Data and AI are Driving More Sustainable Retail Sourcing

Consumers’ calls for sustainability have never been louder. A record 78% of consumers now say sustainability is important, and these shoppers increasingly are holding companies accountable not only for their direct operations, but also for the environmental and social impact of their entire supply chain. Those hardening consumer preferences, along with heightening scrutiny of retail operations from governments and investors, are rapidly pushing businesses to seek innovative solutions that ensure sustainable practices from end to end.

At the forefront of these solutions are multi-enterprise supply chain platforms, which have emerged as a critical tool for centralizing data across the complex web of stakeholders involved in supply chains. This technology creates a unified view of supply chain operations, breaking down silos between departments and enabling real-time data sharing among manufacturers, suppliers, distributors and retailers. The centralization of data ensures timeliness, accuracy and the transparency necessary to ensure efficiency and sustainability, making it easier to track the social and environmental integrity of materials, draw actionable insights and implement improvements.

By offering a single source of truth and real-time information, multi-enterprise platforms facilitate better decision-making and enable companies to respond more swiftly to changes in demand, supply disruptions or regulatory requirements. This agility is crucial for maintaining ethical supply chains, as it allows businesses to adapt their sourcing strategies to fully encompass sustainability criteria without compromising on efficiency or cost-effectiveness.

Leveraging AI to Optimize Everything from Chain of Custody to Risk Management

Increasingly, multi-enterprise platforms are harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize supply chain processes through faster and more accurate predictive analysis and risk management. This advancement represents a significant leap in how companies foresee and navigate potential challenges across their supply networks.


TradeBeyond, for example, has automated the intricate task of supply chain mapping and risk assessment. By analyzing vast amounts of data, the platform’s AI not only identifies key suppliers but also evaluates environmental and social risks at every level of the supply chain, from raw material extraction to final product delivery. This depth of analysis and the resulting insights are crucial for businesses, enabling them to make strategic sourcing decisions and avoid high-risk suppliers.

AI is similarly streamlining the process of documenting chain of custody — a critical record of the origins and movements of all materials through the supply chain that is now necessary to comply with many new global ESG (environmental, social and governance) laws — by automatically collecting and analyzing data at every step of the supply chain.

This includes everything from the certification of raw materials to the environmental footprint of transportation methods. By providing accurate and up-to-date documentation, AI helps companies ensure compliance with rapidly evolving sustainability standards and regulations and in providing more complete product information to consumers who are increasingly demanding more transparency from retailers.

Transforming Supply Chains into Engines of Sustainability

Dramatic expansions in AI capabilities are compounding the already enormous benefits of multi-enterprise platforms in the areas of efficiency and sustainability. A platform like TradeBeyond intelligently collects data from ERP systems, supply chain partners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and sustainability databases, offering brands and retailers a unified view of their supply chain while tying external data to specific SKUs and purchase orders.

The platform’s supply chain maps illustrate the relationships between vendors and factories and even visualize key performance and scorecard metrics such as audit results, certifications and risk levels so that compliance managers can see at a glance any vulnerabilities in their supplier base. By centralizing key supplier data, this technology also is instrumental in helping businesses meet their Scope 3 carbon reduction goals, allowing them to collect and assess emissions data, efficiently implement improvement plans, and track and measure their progress.

Although the journey toward sustainable sourcing is complex and challenging, with the help of advanced technologies like multi-enterprise platforms and AI, companies are better equipped to navigate this journey, transforming their supply chains into engines of sustainability and resilience. As these technologies continue to evolve, their role in driving sustainable sourcing practices will only grow, marking a new era of ethical and responsible retail sourcing operations.

Eric Linxwiler is SVP of TradeBeyond. He has over 30 years of experience in enterprise software and cloud-based platform companies, with a specialty in supply chain optimization and workflow management. Contact him at

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