Circularise, a young Dutch company that styles itself as a blockchain supply chain transparency provider, recently launched a project with Porsche and material suppliers Borealis, Covestro and Domo Chemicals within the scope of the Startup Autobahn innovation programme aimed at enabling the traceability of plastics on blockchain to validate the use of sustainable materials in Porsche cars.
Circularise was able to create a digital thread through the entire supply chain, enabling material traceability and making it possible to track the CO2 footprint and other sustainability metrics, such as water savings.
Obtaining information from supply chains has always been a challenge due to their inherent complexity and the number of players, but also because of the trust, privacy and confidentiality aspects involved.
Blockchain technologies address all those concerns by offering a fitting solution to transparency challenges in supply chains.
“We believe transparency should not come at the cost of reduced privacy and confidentiality,” said co-counder and CEO Mesbah Sabur. His company has developed patent pending technology for creating verified statements on public blockchains without revealing any underlying sensitive data.
“While this raw data is very valuable in a B2B setting, consumers demand a more distilled and interactive version. We are proud to present exactly that in collaboration with Porsche and some of their pioneering suppliers,” he said.
Porsche took part in the project in order to gain more insight into the materials it used to build its cars.
“We need to know more details on the parts and materials being used in our products, that means information on production processes deep down the supply chain, statements of recycled content and more,” explained Antoon Versteeg, project lead Innovation Research at the carmaker.
Resin suppliers Borealis, Covestro and Domo Chemicals, each of whom have developed sustainable material grades for the automotive industry, also participated in the project.
As Thomas Nuyts, director of Global Product Management at Domo Chemicals, a producer of sustainable polyamides, pointed out: “We at Domo can only gain by making the supply chain more transparent. By tracking our materials, we will make a huge step ahead in supporting the automotive industry in its sustainability challenges.”
The first step in the process is the verification of the claims made about the origins and composition of the materials by an independent third party.
Such verification is essential, according to Christopher McArdle, Borealis vice president Polyolefin Strategy and New Business Development, and independent auditors are essential, even with a supply chain using blockchain technology, to gain the trust and confidence of all value chain members.
“Several years from now, after these systems are in place on a wider scale, things will have been standardised. For now, it’s still early days. Auditors and certifications are essential to ensure that no one can engage in greenwashing. But we really need to pick up the pace as we keep moving towards more circularity,” McArdle said.
Next, the materials are ‘digitised’ by creating a digital twin for each batch on the blockchain which carries all the relevant information regarding the batch, such as its environmental footprint and origin. This digital thread created transparency between project partners, leading to an improved supply chain collaboration.
Once the materials are digitised, the digital twin is continually updated by the parties along the supply chain with data from the physical supply chain, reflecting the manufacturing processes along the lifecycle of the product.
The “Smart Questioning” technology developed by Circularise enables this to take place anonymously and with full protection of all confidential information of the participants.
Transparency and confidentiality are very important, emphasised Burkhard Zimmermann, head of Resin, Digital Transformation & Sustainability at Covestro’s Polycarbonates segment.
“For instance, the material composition is of competitive advantage so we would never share that openly. Here, Circularise helps us to maintain this confidentiality and only disclose the information needed from raw material producer to recycler. And with that, we can close the loop,” he said.
The technology is expected to help car manufacturers to make better decisions regarding the materials used in the next generations of vehicles and support end-of-life recycling approaches.
As an additional advantage, it will also help consumers to learn more about their car and its origins, enabling them to make more sustainable choices and ultimately reducing the environmental impact across the whole value chain.