Saving rainforests with digital innovation

Neste, a Finnish oil refiner focusing heavily on sustainability, was ready for some radical innovations to ensure the transparency of their supply chain. They organised an event, called Hack the Supply, a 24-hour hackathon event in May 2017, together with Slush, a tech start-up accelerator. The event took place simultaneously in Helsinki and Singapore. Its aim was to create a new concept for improving and digitalising Neste’s Bio-oil Supplier Due Diligence System. In other words, Neste wanted an innovative way for them to manage their highly complicated supply chains and track the bio compliance and certifications of their suppliers. The bulk of them being Indonesian palm oil plantations, smallholdings and local partners. Certification and compliance is of utmost importance to see that the origin of the raw materials is verified, the surrounding rainforests aren’t being chopped down for more plantations and to make sure the local working conditions are up to standard (good health, safety, environmental, and social issues) for the workers.

I had three minutes to present our concept to the judges. 

I led our Nortal team of five as Creative Lead to push for a different and more useful solution than one more new dashboard. Our idea “The Neste ecosystem of sustainable suppliers” focused on openness, transparency and co-operating with the suppliers themselves. It was akin to a LinkedIn for biofuel suppliers. The local suppliers would create a public profile in Neste’s proprietary network to prove they are certified, what they produce and what their working conditions are like. The incentive for them would be that they could become one of Neste’s preferred suppliers if all of their certificates and compliance matters are in order.

Look at the schedules and routes and switch from map view to comparison view to optimise your suppliers and shipments.

The social network could be linked to supply chain planning tools and a clearly visualised dashboard. Each step was made to look simple, regardless of the number of data points shown on screen. An important idea behind the interface was that it should be both tool for Neste’s supply chain managers to optimise shipments, and a network for the local suppliers to co-operate with Neste, share with each other and get the help they need to attain all the certificates needed.

The supplier information can be laid out in a map and filtered according to every criteria. If you want to see the corn oil shipment due today to the refinery in Rotterdam, just activate the tracking system.

The judges rewarded us with an honorary mention for the best presentation, the most professional implementation and our wildly innovative approach.

A compilation video of Neste’s Hack the Supply hackathon.

A more detailed story of our project can be seen here on my piece for Nortal’s blog: Pumping ideas for Neste.

Our fantastic designers David Castillo and Mari-Liis  Kärsten created stunning visuals for what the sustainability tracking system could look like. Thanks to the 17 years of experience with Neste and the expertise of Juha Virko and Kalle Mattas (not in picture), we could spell out how our solution could be integrated into Neste’s existing systems, and how Neste’s supply chain planning tools could add value to the network.

Update: Based on our hackathon performance, Neste decided to choose Nortal to develop the demo version of the sustainable supplier portal! 

After evaluating the ideas of all the hackathon finalists, we decided to partner up with Nortal. They had just the right kind of special expertise to supplement Neste’s own resources.

– Tommi Tuovila, CIO, Neste

Update 2: The demo was presented at the Annual Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil in Bali in November 2017 and Neste is now developing a new digital Supplier Sustainability Portal based on our demo.

Update 3: Neste has launched the first operational version of its Supplier Sustainability Portal (SSP) for a selected group of renewable products’ raw material suppliers in 2018. The portal will be tested and further developed during the first half of 2019, and implemented gradually with a target of covering all Neste’s renewable raw material suppliers by the end of 2019.