In the wake of various global scandals in supply chains including contamination, labor scandals, and environmental impacts, motivations for supply chain traceability and transparency are growing. Firms are increasingly being held responsible for the practices that occur within their supply chain, even if they do not have direct control of those practices. Research shows that the drivers for increasing traceability & transparency in the supply chain are manifold, ranging from safety to risk management, efficiency, compliance, consumer demand, and sustainability goals. 

While the urgency to act is high, most companies currently lack the capability to understand what is happening in their supply chains. At the same time, suppliers and producers are limited in their access to technologies that connect them with supply chain partners. There is a need to increase transparency across the supply chain by employing new technologies and approaches that empower producers, manufacturers, and consumers to connect, enabling all actors in supply chains to progress towards safer and more sustainable supply chains. Any complete solution must include the right mix of people, information and technology. 

Supply chain players are finding themselves at a challenging decision point – how to act to increase the security and sustainability in their supply chains. This indecision, coupled with the high costs of building in visibility solutions to enable transparency, has led to an impasse in the supply chain, inhibiting the progress for safer and more sustainable supply chains. Clear, business-focused research is needed to better understand the current barriers and to provide a roadmap to implement solutions that are both effectual and cost conscious. In an effort to explore this topic further, the MIT SSC is exploring this issue together with industry partners, NGOs, and third party organizations.