Replacing the paper trail - the evolution of global trade


There’s one word that Clyde Fletcher uses to sum up his 36 years running Fonterra’s Documentation Centre (FDC). 

“Collaboration. If everyone collaborated for the greater good, we’d all get what we want!”

The outgoing Fonterra Trade Documentation Centre Manager, Clyde Fletcher, celebrating his move to retirement.

Clyde’s now officially hanging up his documentation stamp, and looking forward to retirement, but before he left, he was able to lead one more giant step in the evolution of documentation and trade for the Co-op – Fonterra’s first blockchain transaction

It’s a milestone, because it replaces the paper trail for export trades with secure, digital certification.

It was achieved through more than nine months’ preparation between seven different parties - the seller (Fonterra), the customer (Sichuan New Hope Trading), the sending and receiving bank (HSBC NZ and HSBC China), the shipping company (Maersk), the blockchain provider (Wave BL) and the destination carrier’s port agent.

After that achievement, Clyde’s leaving the Co-op with a bang, but he says there’s been a lot of change in his three and a half decades at Fonterra, and some of it’s been the result of some of the world’s biggest disasters - like Chernobyl and 9/11. “That’s when the really riveting change started for trade documentation”, he says, mostly because of the co-operation required to develop solutions.

Any significant global event generated new compliance requirements.

clyde fletcher, Documentation Centre Manager, Fonterra Trade

When the Chernobyl nuclear explosion shocked the world in 1986, (just two years after Clyde started with the Co-op) concern about its impact on rainwater and food safety led to the introduction of a radiation certificate for global trade. By working together with governmental agencies and other food producers we were able to develop a certification process, which is still part of our health certification today.

“From then on, any significant global event generated new compliance requirements,” says Clyde, and solution-focussed, cross-functional teams were needed to implement them.

While Chernobyl raised concerns about food safety, the Twin Towers disaster on September 11th, 2001 forced additional certification for the physical security of supply chains.

Clyde in action in 1998, just after men no longer had to wear suits and ties to work.

The Documentation Centre during the 1970s-1980s, when it was located in Mount Eden, Auckland. Back then there were no computers and you shared a phone between two people, but there was an ashtray at every desk – smoking during work was completely acceptable.

“By working together with MPI (Ministry of Primary Industries), Customs, banks and supply chain stakeholders, we created trusted partnerships within New Zealand and in other import and export countries”. We now have reciprocal agreements with Customs agencies in countries including Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and USA, making the whole process smoother, more secure and more efficient.

Technology advancements have also helped to the Co-op keep up with the sheer volume and detail of the data that’s now needed. So much so, the head count at Fonterra’s Documentation Centre has remained largely the same over the decades, despite increasing transactions from 6,000 per year to more than 50,000. And the complexity and information required per transaction has also increased significantly.


Clyde also credits the diversity of thought in FDC as one of their secrets of success. “I love the amount of empowerment that we have now. It was all one-size-fits-all back in the day, now there is much more flexibility – from the hours you work, to the way you work and even how welcoming people are to new ideas”.

Although Clyde is looking forward an active retirement, he’s also promised he’ll keep an eye on what Fonterra’s doing and watch as it continues its global trade evolution.