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Sustainable Sourcing In The Age Of Generative AI for Resilient and Transparent Supply Chains

December 14, 2023 | Manju Devadas

Blog / Sustainable Sourcing In The Age Of Generative AI for Resilient and Transparent Supply Chains

Sustainable sourcing, once a nice-to-have, has rapidly evolved into a necessity for businesses around the world. Today, it’s not just about environmental stewardship but about building resilient, transparent, and efficient supply chains. And yet, the road to achieving this is riddled with challenges:

  • How do you evaluate a supplier’s genuine sustainability efforts from mere greenwashing? 
  • How can you anticipate environmental disruptions that might affect your supply chain?
  • And once you have all this data, how do you translate it into actionable steps?

Data Silos: The Biggest Threat to Sustainable Sourcing?

Despite earnest efforts to piece data together, a majority of companies hit roadblocks. Many postpone decisions, held back by the intricate web of challenges: divergent data formats, the overwhelming volume, conflicting data sources, and the constant race against time to ensure that the data isn’t just available but also of impeccable quality.

A quick look at the challenges: 

Fragmented Data: Most businesses are swamped with data, but it’s scattered across different systems—purchase records in one place, supplier environmental audits in another, global regulatory compliance data in a third. Without a consolidated view, decision-making is stunted.

Lack of Real-time Insights: The global supply chain landscape is dynamic. A supplier compliant today might face regulatory issues tomorrow. Businesses often struggle to get real-time insights, making them reactive rather than proactive.

Complexity of Analysis: Evaluating a supplier isn’t just about cost-efficiency. It’s about understanding their environmental footprint, their socio-economic impacts, regulatory compliance, and more. Juggling these variables is a monumental task.

Inflexible Legacy Systems: Many enterprises still rely on legacy systems that aren’t designed for the kind of agile, data-intensive operations required for modern sustainable sourcing.

Bridging the Gap with Planning in a Box

Planning in a Box serves as an advanced decision intelligence platform, interlinking multiple systems such as ERPs, CRMs, IoT sensors, and third-party databases. It bridges the gap between these varied data sources – from satellite imagery tracking deforestation to on-ground sensors measuring water use or transactional data from suppliers. By synthesizing this wealth of information, the platform provides a unified, real-time view, facilitating sustainable supplier shortlisting. Google Cloud’s Gen AI further enhances this by enabling users to simply type or ask queries and instantly extract meaningful insights: 

  • Determining the carbon footprint of a potential supplier in real-time.
  • Evaluating water usage patterns of suppliers in a specific region.
  • Assessing the socioeconomic impact of partnering with a new supplier.
  • Quick comparison of two suppliers based on sustainability metrics.
  • Predicting supply chain disruptions based on environmental data.
  • Verifying the authenticity of a supplier’s sustainability claims.
  • Tracking deforestation activities linked to potential raw material suppliers.
  • Checking compliance status of suppliers against global sustainability standards.
  • Gauging the community impact of a supplier’s operations.
  • Forecasting the potential regulatory risks associated with a new supplier.
  • Assessing the renewable energy usage of suppliers within a specific industry.

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How Does It Function? Let’s Dive Deep

Unifying Diverse Data Sets: Planning in a Box is adept at collating data from varied sources, eliminating the challenge of disparate data formats. For instance, a business might receive supplier data in spreadsheets, cloud storage, or even direct database feeds. Planning in a Box brings all of this under one roof, creating a single source of truth.

Data Cleaning with Cortex Framework: Powered by Google Cloud’s Cortex Framework, it ensures the data is not just unified but pristine. Consider a company sourcing raw materials from South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The names of certain materials might differ by region, leading to potential misclassifications. Planning in a Box’s Data Foundation leveraging the Cortex Framework ensures such discrepancies are rectified, paving the way for accurate analysis.

Scenario-based Analysis for Real-time Recommendations: By continuously assessing internal and external datasets, Planning in a Box provides real-time recommendations. Let’s take an electronics manufacturer weighing the sustainability quotient of multiple suppliers. The platform might highlight that while Supplier A has a lower carbon footprint, Supplier B is more reliable during peak seasons, allowing the manufacturer to make an informed decision.

Interactive Data Exploration with Generative AI: Simplifying the user-data interaction, the platform employs Google Cloud’s Generative AI. A business executive can directly pose questions like, “What if our primary rubber supplier faces an environmental regulation disruption?” The AI promptly offers a scenario-based answer, making data-driven decisions accessible even to those not well-versed in data analytics.

Rapid Deployment for Quick Value: A unique aspect is its use-case-driven approach. Instead of generalized solutions, it focuses on specific business challenges. This ensures the platform can be deployed and start delivering value in just four weeks or less. Imagine a beverage company trying to assess the water usage sustainability of its suppliers before the next quarter. Planning in a Box enables such swift yet thorough evaluations.

The potential of Planning in a Box is not confined to these features alone. Its adaptability means it can cater to unique business challenges, always staying a step ahead in the quest for sustainable sourcing.

The Google Cloud Edge

Backing the capabilities of Planning in a Box is the robust infrastructure and analytics prowess of Google Cloud:

BigQuery Analytics: Dive deep into supplier data, understand their practices, and evaluate them against sustainability benchmarks – all in real-time, thanks to the processing power of BigQuery.

Real-time Monitoring with Google Cloud Tools: Tracking supplier sustainability practices becomes a breeze with cloud-based tools, ensuring your business always aligns with its green objectives.

Real-Life Example: Sustainable Sourcing in the Beauty Industry

Consider the scenario of a prominent global beauty brand that pledges to use only ethically sourced and sustainable ingredients in its products. For such a brand, the reputation hinges not just on the quality of the product but on the promise of sustainability. With a wide array of products – from moisturizers to lipsticks – the brand deals with numerous suppliers worldwide to source ingredients like shea butter, essential oils, and natural extracts.

Learn how Ulta Beauty improves sourcing quality with Planning in a Box 


  • Validation: How can the brand ascertain that the shea butter they’re using hasn’t contributed to deforestation? Or that the lavender essential oil is from farms that use sustainable water practices?
  • Variability: With the complexities of global supply chains, suppliers might have different standards or interpretations of “sustainable practices.”
  • Real-time Monitoring: The beauty industry is highly dynamic. A sudden surge in demand for a product might lead to ramping up supplies. But is the brand compromising sustainability during these times?
  • Regulations: As countries tighten regulations around sustainability and ethical sourcing, how can the brand ensure constant compliance?

The Planning in a Box Approach: 

With its ability to provide a unified view by connecting multiple systems and data sources, Planning in a Box becomes an invaluable tool for our beauty brand:

Data Synthesis: It can integrate data from local agricultural agencies, satellite images, and suppliers’ transactional records to validate the authenticity of the shea butter’s source.

Standardized Metrics: By analyzing various suppliers’ data, the platform can set a uniform benchmark for what “sustainable practices” mean, ensuring consistency.

Dynamic Response: In an unexpected bulk order scenario, a quick query using the Gen AI interface like, “Identify suppliers capable of a 20% production spike within 60 days without breaching sustainability benchmarks,” provides instant, actionable results.

Regulatory Alignment: Automates tracking of evolving sustainability regulations globally, alerting the brand of any upcoming changes that could impact its supply chain, ensuring continuous alignment.

Journey to a Greener Supply Chain: Let’s Do It Right

The journey to sustainable sourcing might be complex, but with tools like Planning in a Box, it’s no longer out of reach. Imagine harnessing real-time insights, predictive intelligence, and actionable recommendations, all tailored to your unique business context.

Ready to revolutionize your supplier selection? Join our exclusive workshop, where we’ll dive deeper into the power of decision intelligence and how it can supercharge your sourcing decisions. Elevate your strategy; let data lead the way.


Manju Devadas is the Founder and CEO of Pluto7, bringing 20+ years of experience in predictive analytics for Supply Chain, Retail and Manufacturing. With expertise in AI, Deep Learning, and Machine Learning, he has been instrumental in improving efficiency and strategic growth across industries.

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