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UK start-up Circulor is on a mission to make the world’s most complex supply chains more transparent. Its technology assigns a digital identity to commodities and tracks the supply chain data and embedded carbon at each stage of production, recycling and end-of-life.
Auto Futures has been talking to Douglas Johnson-Poensgen, CEO and Co-founder of Circulor, about how its solution is being applied by OEMs such as JLR, Polestar and Volvo Cars.
“We’re a global technology business that is enabling its customers to gain visibility into their supply chains, track and improve their ESG performance, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through direct, bought in, and inherited emissions sources, and demonstrate responsible sourcing and sustainability,” says Johnson-Poensgen.
Circulor has sold its solution to the electric vehicle (EV) industry, where it helps OEMs and suppliers to track materials such as cobalt, mica and lithium. The company is also tracing the source of other commodities, including nickel, copper, and recycled plastics.
“Circulor is setting a new standard for creating supply chain transparency and traceability. We’re able to do this because we are tackling and tracing some of the most complex supply chains, like those for batteries, electric vehicles and aerospace. We have established partnerships with Volvo, Jaguar, Boeing and Trafigura, to name a few, and are working closely with them to provide full visibility into their supply chains and support them in mitigating risks to their business,” he explains.
“Digitalising supply chains means data and insights that have never existed before are becoming readily available. Companies can use this data to ensure that they’re sourcing their critical materials sustainably and responsibly – for instance, using no child or forced labour.
“They can also use these data-driven insights for making decisions toward achieving net-zero carbon manufacturing and industrial processes.”
Circulor’s enterprise software platform uses a combination of technologies, including blockchain, business logic and machine learning
“Circulor’s technology tracks the material itself through the supply chain, even as it changes state within the manufacturing process. Rather than following paperwork as a proxy, tagging and tracking the material itself allows us to provide far greater accuracy and detect anomalies,” says Johnson-Poensgen.
“Blockchain is one part of our solution in this process. It enables the sharing of information across the supply chain in such a way as to create an immutable record of the material and the process, creating continuous trust throughout the system,” he adds.
Circulor’s platform is being used by Volvo Cars to trace the cobalt used in the XC40 Recharge, its first fully electric car.
“A number of OEMs are using Circulor’s traceability solution for their supply chains. For example, we partner with Volvo to track its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, as well as create full visibility into its supply chain for cobalt.”
“OEMs can deploy traceability within their supply chains by including real-time tracking tools like Circulor’s in their requirements to their suppliers. We then work with the OEMs as they sponsor us and connect us to their suppliers and we onboard them into the system to contribute the necessary data,” he explains.
Rare materials such as nickel, lithium and cobalt are sometimes sourced from countries with environmental and human rights concerns. Together with Polestar, Circulor is currently tracking the cobalt supply chain within the production process for the Polestar 2 EV.
“We’re in the process of expanding this partnership to track all materials within Polestar batteries and also go beyond batteries to track and trace the materials and emissions of the entire vehicle and its production. This work is helping Polestar to create a climate-neutral car by 2030 and accelerate the shift to a climate-neutral future.”
In another development, Jaguar Land Rover has partnered with Circulor, a leading UK leather manufacturer and the University of Nottingham, to trial the use of traceability technology in its leather supply chain.
“Through the process, the partners created a ‘digital twin’ of the raw material, enabling the tracking and tracing of Jaguar Land Rover’s leather through every stage of its supply chain and helping to identify the environmental and ethical impact of its leather products.”
“The work has enabled Jaguar Land Rover to assess the carbon footprint of its leather supply chain and will ultimately support its commitment to offer customers more sustainable and responsible material choices for their vehicle interiors,” says Johnson-Poensgen.
Dave Owen, JLR’s Executive Director of Supply Chain, adds: “The outcome from this world-first trial will allow us to further improve the sustainability of the leather supply chain around the globe, ensuring the complete traceability of raw materials from origin to vehicle.”
Cleaning Up The Supply Chain
Circulor can also help companies trace and cut their CO2 emissions. Its technology enables customers to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and benchmark against targets in line with international protocols.
“Circulor’s traceability data enables accurate emissions data based on the actual movement of materials, which empowers organisations to reduce their carbon footprint and drive improvements in their processes and logistics.
“For example, Circulor’s CO2 solution empowers Volvo Cars to achieve its goal of global climate neutral manufacturing operations by 2025 by providing them with specific insights into their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions reduction strategies at their manufacturing plants.”
“Transparency into Scope 3 emissions is also critical to ensuring a comprehensive and holistic approach to supply chain sustainability. Circulor helps customers identify and prove current Scope 3 emissions using dynamic carbon tracking data, which calculates both the attributed and inherited emissions at each stage of the supply chain (Scope 1, Scope 2 and inherited Scope 3 emissions),” says Johnson-Poensgen.
“It is with this in mind that we provide visibility of customers’ actual energy usage and carbon emissions from upstream suppliers at each production step in the supply chain. In turn, this enables greater clarity on ways to reduce emissions and expand sustainable sourcing.”
“Data will continue to shape and inform all industries – auto manufacturing included.”
Circulor recently raised $14m in Series A funding. Its existing investors include Boeing HorizonX, Volvo Cars Technology Fund, Jaguar Land Rover’s CVC arm, InMotion Ventures. The company says it will use the investment to drive ongoing innovation and extend its presence in North America and Asia.
Veera Johnson, Co-Founder of Circulor, who chairs Circulor’s Advisory Board, comments: “We are looking forward to working even more strategically with our investors and industry leaders to extend our capabilities and market presence in order to consolidate and enhance our position as the leader in sustainable supply chain traceability.”
Finally we asked Johnson-Poensgen what will auto manufacturing look like by 2030.
“Data will continue to shape and inform all industries – auto manufacturing included. As the automotive industry becomes more electrified, Circulor can provide its technical solutions, data, and knowhow of some of the world’s most complex supply chains to ensure that this industry-wide transformation is done to the utmost benefit of people, business, and our environment,” he concludes.