SIPPO Import Promotion Forum 2019: Sourcing 4.0

November 22nd, 2019

This year’s SIPPO Import Promotion Forum, held at the Fossil Europe Group Headquarters in Basel on 14th of November 2019, dealt with the questions surrounding Sourcing 4.0: how does digitalization affect supply chains and export markets in developing countries?

The many speakers delved into the different dimensions affecting the topic: from political, to technical to societal dimensions, with cases from entrepreneurs developing supply chains and sourcing from developing countries.

Dr. Petersen from the Bertelsmann Stiftung took listeners on a journey through the political dimension as first speaker, laying out how the technological (r)evolution will provide several developing countries with the opportunity for leapfrogging – taking advantage of application of technological advances without having had to develop them or trying earlier models (ie from no communication to cell-phones as is currently happening) – whilst also indicating that the increasing use of technology will steer economies to ever more skilled labour, education thus becoming the key for this preparation.

Mr Holenstein from the company Modum, explained how the company’s invention, a thermometer measuring temperature in containers registering the data on a blockchain, allows exporters, importers, freight companies and insurances to track the transport of goods in real time and transparently available to all parties.

Karin Frick from the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, convinced listeners that in an ever more complex, anonymous and digitally connected world, the consumer is trusting technology – Amazon’s Alexa or pictures on Instagram linked to online shops redefine the relationship between human and machine, with e-commerce growing in stable numbers, the trust in the virtual online world is high.

Swiss artist and entrepreneur Dieter Meier delved into his personal experience, sharing how the key in a successful business exporting from abroad – he currently exports organic Argentinian wine and beef and develops an innovative chocolate importing cocoa from Peru to Switzerland – lies in understanding, trusting and utilizing nature’s gifts and leading the business with conviction.

Simon Hohmann from Remei, an all organic textile company producing clothes with local communities in countries like Tanzania and India, and Jürg Birkenmeier from Coop, shared how Remei convinced Coop with their sustainability approach, leading Coop to make sure Remei's products are sold in Coop stores – successfully so for several years, as the customer is willing to pay for sustainably produced clothes.

Monica Rubiolo, Head Trade Promotion, SECO Economic Cooperation and Development, emphasized the importance of making sure developing countries are supported and can be integrated in the digital revolution – from supporting digital transformation, to access to capital, to the support to specific value chains, SECO tries to support the skills and competencies in developing countries.

Fitting with the topic of digitalization the audience was able to ask questions through an online tool such as “how can we best support the countries which will loose out from digitalization?” Dr. Petersen provided the answer to this particular question by explaining that we need to make  sure that policymakers steers education and the private sector as best possible to prepare for this evolution.

In a final discussion Martin Saladin, Head of Operative Economic Cooperation and Development at SECO, Kaspar Engeli, Director of the Swiss Retail Association Handel Schweiz, and Samuel Bon, CEO of Swisscontact, discussed how trade has always been and will become ever more agile due to digitalization, how the role of the public good is important to create trust in digitalization and to provide the framework and legal reliability for investment, and that we need to make sure to collaborate in a systemic way to ensure the inclusion of all in an ever more digitalized world.