Unilever has teamed up with Google Cloud in a programme that combines cloud computing with satellite imagery and AI to improve its product sourcing strategy.
Together, the companies will first focus on the commercial application of Google Cloud and Google Earth Engine in an effort to achieve sustainable commodity sourcing.
Unilever intends to use the technology platform to obtain insights into any impact its sourcing has on the environment and local communities. The owner of Hellmann’s and Lipton tea says the initiative will first focus on sustainable palm oil, but will be extended to other commodities in the future.
By working with a wide range of technology partners, the companies will build a centralised command centre which Unilever claims will provide a more complete picture of the ecosystems connected to its supply chain. As a result, Unilever says it will be better equipped to detect deforestation, in addition to prioritising critical areas of forest and habitats that need protecting.
The latest announcement joins many other partnerships that Unilever has formed under a similar framework. Most recently, the company announced that it was piloting new geolocation technology in partnership with Orbital Insight to monitor its palm oil supply chain more accurately.
Google Cloud’s planetary-scale geo-spatial platform combines accurate satellite imagery, with the ability to store and make sense of large amounts of complex data. Unilever claims that simplifying complex datasets is critical to increasing transparency within supply chains and enabling collaboration across public and private partners.
Dave Ingram, Unilever’s chief procurement officer, said: “This collaboration with Google Cloud will take us to the next level in sustainable sourcing. We will now be able to process and combine complex sets of data like never before.
“The combination of these sustainability insights with our commercial sourcing information is a significant step-change in transparency, which is crucial to better protect and regenerate nature.”
Rob Enslin, president of Google Cloud, added: “Together, we’re demonstrating how technology can be a powerful tool in aiding businesses who strive to protect the Earth’s resources. It will require collective action to drive meaningful change, and we are committed to doing our part.”