Scoping the Blockchain Opportunity
Here are a few examples. Instead of spending weeks or months retrospectively tracing a product’s origins and current location, with blockchain, companies would always have instant access to accurate information. That would be transformational for product safety: Contaminated or faulty products could be pinpointed in just a few seconds and removed from sale.
That’s not all. By combining blockchain with the Internet of Things (networks of internet-connected smart devices/sensors), companies could avert product safety issues before they even occur. Blockchain-connected sensors embedded along the supply chain would continuously check for the right environmental conditions and instantly identify tampering.
Proving product authenticity will be transformed, too. Today, consumers take the provenance of food products on trust. If they have confidence in a brand, they’ll believe what it says on the label.
Counterfeiters seek to exploit that trust, and they’re getting more sophisticated all the time. With blockchain, however, the $1.2 trillion global counterfeiting industry would take a real hit. By tagging each product with a RFID chip, manufacturers could trace exactly where their products end up. And with simple swipe of a smartphone app, consumers and B2B buyers could check the product journey from end to end.
Sustainability provides another opportunity. Today’s consumers pay closer attention than ever to the environmental and societal impacts of the products they consume (According to Nielsen, 75 percent of Millennials say they’d be likely to change consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment).
Guaranteeing ethical and sustainable production – and communicating that to consumers – is becoming essential. But it’s incredibly resource intensive. Up to now, companies have struggled to connect directly with small-scale suppliers at the start of the supply chain and incentivize them to adopt sustainable practices. Blockchain emphatically changes that. Completely tamper-proof, the technology enables every step in the growing and manufacturing process to be tracked, providing an audit trail of exactly how, where and from what each product was made.
That’s what chocolate brand Chocolonely did. Working with Accenture, the company used blockchain to combat predatory labor practices in the cocoa industry. During the pilot, it tracked more than 900,000 kilograms of beans and verified them as being 100 percent free from slave labor.
Blockchain is a key architectural element of the intelligent supply-chain infrastructure that will help revolutionize the future of customer transparency and trust. It enables new ways for companies to engage with customers and consumers, supports new ways of working and creates new ways to deliver on brand purpose. So how can your business take advantage?
Start thinking about your blockchain strategy now. Consider how this technology will disrupt your ecosystem, whether you choose to adopt it. Remember that blockchain is a tool, not a solution in its own right. It can only deliver real value when it’s pointed at the right problems. Test it out with trusted partners across your supply chain. Also, don’t forget to move fast: Select pilot use cases, test, iterate and scale.