Shaping supply chain sustainability with the Internet of things

Shaping supply chain sustainability with the Internet of things

To hear Gavin Starks tell it, the premise for the AMEE platform grew from several simple -- but vastly ambitious -- questions.

The first, recalled the founder and chair of the firm, was: "How might we footprint everything on earth?"

And from there, more questions flowed, Starks told the audience on the final day of GreenBiz Group's VERGE DC conference.

They included:

  • What if we aggregate the world's environmental standards into a single platform? (Something that no other firm or organization had done.)
  • And what if we built a search engine on top of that to create a tool that was easy to use, relevant and free?

AMEE, in fact, did those things. The accomplishments led to further refining of the company's quest and a focus on calculating emissions from the supply chain -- the source of 70 percent of most companies' environmental footprint.

Doing so, in effect, would enable "use of supply chain engagement as a force for change," Starks said. That's something many companies want to do. Walmart, for instance, aims to cut 20 million metric tons from its supply chain by 2015. And companies committed to Scope 3 emissions reporting also are figuring out how to best track their supply chains' emissions.

Today, AMEE already works with the some of the world's largest and most respected climate and standards organizations to provide insight into environmental and energy data in order to better engage supply chains.

The notion of "scoring an entire supply chain of a company ... is not something we're just talking about; we're doing it," Starks said in a "One Great Idea" presentation at VERGE DC.

The applications of AMEE capabilities include work with Autodesk to enable designers who use the company's software to assess the impact of the things they create during the design stage. ("More than 80 percent of the footprint of a thing gets baked in at the point of design," Starks said.) The firm also expects to soon work with a country, which Starks didn't name, to help assess the impact of its supply chain.

The story of the company's development journey not only provided a narrative about pursuing a novel idea, it also illustrated some of the key themes of the VERGE conference. Chief among them are the realizations that the advantages of having access to "big data" cannot be realized unless you:

  • Analyze, organize and present it in a way that is relevant to users and easy to understand.
  • Make it easy to share, so that the information is accessible across broad networks to enable solutions to scale -- and to foster further innovation. (VERGE speaker Dan Probst provided a blog post today about why sharing is essential.)

The qualities are key to the evolution of a highly intelligent, interconnected and efficient built environment, a central premise of VERGE and the idea of an "Internet of Things."

"From my perspective," Starks said, "the Internet of Things is a technology looking for purpose, and to me sustainability is a purpose." Toward that end, he said, AMEE hopes to be a "catalyzer for change by providing a better set of tools."

Photo from VERGE DC by Goodwin Ogbuehi for GreenBiz Group.