The Wood Wide Web: How the digital age can learn from the network of trees

By Hollie Bridgland | 2 May 2023

Trees, like humans, communicate with one another. Their language looks like intricate and decentralised networks of complex chemical and electrical signals. These enable them to warn each other about potential dangers such as disease, harmful insects,and even incoming herbivores. Interestingly, their underground fungal network can also help them recognise their own kin, and favour them when it comes to sharing resources. 


Technology’s role in facilitating how we share vital information and work collaboratively to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, such as illegal deforestation, should take inspiration from trees. Nature is the world’s longest running R&D project, with millions of years of evolution under its belt – making it a very qualified expert. 


With a growing number of regulations and summits, like the UK Environment Act, EU Deforestation Regulation and COP27, it is clear that steps are being put in place to help protect our natural environment. However, whilst these regulations and targets are a great starting point, they will only be met with the use of technology that can improve transparency and accountability, and facilitate due diligence across complex supply chains that is needed. 


So, what are the key takeaways from the way that trees communicate that can help businesses craft better supply chain strategies?


  • Create networks that enable collaboration – By working collaboratively with governments and businesses, organisations can create similarly strong and interoperable networks that can facilitate greater visibility and due diligence – helping to support each other in complying with net-zero goals and incoming environmental regulations. 
  • Fuel effective communication, with trust at the centre – Open collaboration is impossible without confidence in the authenticity of those you are partnering with. Just as trees favour their kin, stakeholders in the industry will favour those that are willing and open to building trusted, mutually reinforcing relationships. 
  • Listen and adapt with data – Just as trees share information so that those in their network can protect themselves from danger, businesses must ensure that they are utilising their own connections and new data to adapt to better processes. If they ignore these messages, they could end up extinct. 


Technology is a key enabler in implementing these learnings. One technology that has the potential to support this is Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). DLT can create a network of collaboration that promotes decentralised, secure and transparent sharing of data between organisations. Not only that, but it allows organisations to utilise this data to do their own due diligence, beyond their immediate supplier and all the way back to the source. 


In this system, participants can work together to maintain the integrity and security of this shared ledger – working in tandem, just like the components of a tree interact with those around it. Ultimately, we are stronger together and creating powerful, trusted networks will ensure businesses working sustainably continue to thrive, but more importantly that our natural world is properly protected.


Take a look at our solution Timber Chain to see how you too can build better bonds of trust and improve traceability, or get in touch to speak to a member of our team.


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