Supply Chain Maps @ MIT Center for Civic Media

When I arrived at this MIT Center for Civic Media’s lunch about mapping supply chains, Leonardo Bonanni was explaining how it took him a very long time to develop the map etched in his computer case showing all the places his computer’s components supposedly originated. It wasn’t the etching that took so long. Discovering where things originate was tricky. First, what all is in a computer? What parts, what elements, what … what … ? Second, from where do all these things come? Where are they assembled? From where do the bits come?

Bonanni began the supply chain map projects for a research project, but has had other people approach him for applications since then. A chef wanted to show the provenance of his food, for example.

Bonanni mentioned Future Craft, a project that reworks product design with the environment and sustainability in mind. He showed the inside of a soda bottle label that illustrated how to reuse the bottle for a water filter. Litter from these bottles ends up in all sorts of places and many of those places are where people do not have ready access to fresh water.

He mentioned how dire visibility can be concerning certain global issues when referencing the suicide of farmers in India. Through some of their supply chain tracing ideas and sustainability brainstorms, they hope to empower people.

A demo of his tool sourcemap reveals a very dynamic site where you can navigate by map like the Muppets. One of the surprising discoveries is how some of the trade routes haven’t changed in centuries. In some cases, manufacturers themselves have shared data; in others, consumers have traced products, components, and routes. Office Depot approached them to try to show how their recycled, environmentally-friendly paper was really what it claimed to be. They could then share that information with consumers.

Bonanni sees a supply chain as a social network, engaging every stakeholder.

Another case study deals with climate change’s effects on crop production. A series of maps shows the area of Africa where cocoa is grown changing within the next 38 years such that the current cocoa growing areas will no longer be suitable places for the plants to grow. Either growers need to move the plants far inland or the future of 70% of the world’s cocoa is in jeopardy. (I thought that might get *your* attention. 😉 )

Bonanni mentioned the Ethical Trade Project during the question and answer period.

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