How Blockchain Tech Can Support Sustainability

Buzz about blockchain is everywhere. While blockchain technology is most commonly associated with cryptocurrency transactions (often involving Bitcoin or Ether), its potential extends to many other sectors — including environmental sustainability.

What is Blockchain?

A blockchain can be thought of as a public digital ledger “that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered”. This means that blockchain and accountability go hand in hand. The corruption that compromises private record-keeping is eliminated — the blockchain is owned by everyone and no one. Transactions are requested, broadcast to a peer to peer network, combined with other transaction to create a blockchain, and verified by a network for completion.

Greenbiz explains the problem with corporate reporting regarding environmental sustainability: “[…] information made public about a company’s sustainability — if it’s made public at all — is self-reported by that very company. Even if its environmental or social performance is independently substantiated, it’s through a narrow certification body.”

But through the application of blockchain technology to environmental sustainability reporting — which include a company’s carbon footprint, product supply chain, water and energy use, waste management, and emissions via transport — this information would be inalterable, publicly reported, and publicly verified.

It is also predicted that blockchain technology could improve not only the reliability of reporting, but the actual environmental responsibility of companies, who would be prompted to utilize greener practices with greater transparency. In other words: Performance improves under scrutiny.

Going Transparent in the Palm Oil Industry

Areas in which environmental sustainability reporting via blockchain are being deployed include “[improving[ the sustainability of global supply chains [to] help overcome illegal activities by tracking fish from ‘bait to plate’, or commodities like palm oil, beef and soy from ‘farm to fork’.” Among these, the palm oil industry especially has begun to recognize the potential of blockchain.

SUSTAIN (Sustainability Assurance & Innovation Alliance) has united stakeholders in the palm oil industry “to collaboratively address landscape-level sustainability issues and allow synergy creation among industry players by establishing a common blockchain-based platform for palm oil.”

This is a much needed initiative in the industry, where high demand for the product across the beauty, food, and manufacturing sectors has contributed to a complicated, undocumented and often illegal supply chain, and the massive deforestation of the rainforest. As a result, “only 17% of worldwide palm oil production is classified as sustainable.”

Through blockchain, the origins of palm oil would become more transparent, prompting more sustainable and ethical harvesting practices.

To learn more about how blockchain can contribute to a greener future, check out this video by Futurethinkers.org: