4 Ways Blockchain Brings Social Accountability to the Value Chain

The following blog comes to us from Gabriela Julia of TechnologyAdvice.com

Blockchain has been around for nearly a decade. Originally created as a digital ledger to record transactions made in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, this technology is best known for securely storing blocks of information. Widely  praised for being “incorruptible”, blockchain can record not only financial transactions but “virtually everything of value.”

It’s clear blockchain has made waves in the financial world. But it’s also making an impact in another area: sustainability.

Corporate social responsibility requires companies to evaluate their social practices, and consider how their businesses and employees interact with the environment. Many companies are realizing that blockchain may lead that change.

Blockchain is often associated with intense use of due to the massive computing power needed to work through the complex algorithms that power it. Bitcoin alone has been estimated to consume almost the same amount of electricity as the country of Ireland, according to a study by Joule.  This kind of power consumption, and the resulting carbon footprint it creates, can make it hard to convince the average person of any environmental benefits this technology might have.

Blockchain has the potential to shift our world’s sustainable development through use in the food and energy sectors, and many others.  Keep reading to see how.

Safe Food Transactions
Blockchain can be used in numerous ways other than cryptocurrency. One of the most interesting aspects is how it can be used to improve groceries and food safety.

A February 2017 EconTalk podcast dives further into this idea, discussing how blockchain can lower the cost of owning and transferring goods and property. Reporter Jim Epstein says in Latin America, it’s difficult to keep track of land ownership. When property changes hands, blockchain can capture and upload these transactions after a trade.

“The basic idea is that this database that everyone shares can bring the trust that is missing and is crippling to a lot of these economies,” Epstein says.

Blockchain can also improve a company’s ability to track products throughout their life cycle, according to a GreenBiz article, and it’s proven to be more efficient than traditional manual methods.
For example, Wal-Mart worked with IBM to develop and get blockchain-driven food safety applications up and running quickly. The partnership will try to improve food safety by taking immediate action when produce or other items have gone bad. Blockchain helps keep track of shelf life, and where the products originated.

"With blockchain, you can do strategic removals, and let consumers have confidence," Walmart’s food safety chief Frank Yiannis told Bloomberg. "We believe that enhanced traceability is good for other aspects of the food systems. We hope you could capture other important attributes that would inform decisions around food flows, and even get more efficient at it."

Along with IBM, Provenance is another company making use of blockchain in a sustainable way. The company started after founders were frustrated with “how little we know about the things we buy.” Their mission is to make information about products and supply chains more accessible.

Too, deep integration of blockchain with project management platforms can bring new levels of transparency and accountability to every step of the product lifecycle.

Changing Use of Energy
While blockchain has made tremendous impact in improving food safety, it’s also being used to change how energy is generated, stored, bought, and sold.

LO3 Energy has developed Exergy, a data platform that uses blockchain as part of its solution to make local energy marketplaces. LO3 has developed microgrids, which are ecosystems of connected prosumer and consumer energy assets. The energy is stored, generated, and transacted locally, creating more efficient, resilient, and sustainable communities, according to its website.

Transparency and Traceability
As noted before, one of the biggest issues consumers have with distribution is not knowing products’ origins. BlockchainHub recently listed ways blockchain’s transparency and traceability has had a positive impact on the environment.

In one standout example, blockchain is instrumental in monitoring and reporting  on diesel pollution from trucks idling at shipping ports as they await loading and unloading. Blockchain can also be used in systems that trace the sea life trapped or improperly fished from false fishing equipment.

BlockchainHub points out that blockchain has the potential to create increased corporate accountability by powering systems that monitor factory worker safety, child labor law compliance, employee toxin exposure, and more.

Giving Awards for Sustainable Behavior
Another interesting aspect of blockchain’s sustainable impact is its use of the reward system. BlockchainHub noted a few ways these applications have started incentivising behavior by offering purpose-driven tokens. When a corporation acts in a sustainable manner, value is added to their corporation and they receive a private profit. Examples include:

  • CO2 emission reduction
  • Riding a bike, walking, or taking public transportation
  • Saving energy by turning off lights, etc.
  • Planting trees and recycling
  • Staying in environmentally-friendly hotels

It’s clear that despite blockchain’s significant energy consumption, its application has great potential in powering and promoting sustainability efforts. Whether through tracking food safety, holding corporations accountable for labor regulations, or offering rewards for sustainable behavior, this digital ledger has the power to transform our environment.
Gabriela Julia is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She is a multimedia journalist and graduate student based in Central New York. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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