The future is here: Provenance

Provenance 1
Scanning a tin of tuna using the Provenance app. Photograph:

Diego Horcajada, September 2018

The future is coming faster than expected, and I am not referring to climate change and its cataclysmic consequences. I am alluding to a technological development that promises a redefinition of the way business and society operate, and will eventually help us tackle the sustainability challenges we are facing today: the blockchain and the distributed layer technology (DLT)

In December last year I wrote about “A business case for sustainability in the Fast Moving Consumer Good industries“. I presented a near future, 10 to 15 years from now, in which “a short list of the latest social, economic and technology trends: (1) interconnectedness, (2) feedback culture, (3) standard methods and metrics and (4) product traceability will come together underpinned by the blockchain and the DLT to provide consumers with transparency and empower them to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. At that time, I was not imagining I would be today learning about the blockchain and its potential to enable a more inclusive and sustainable society.

Since the White Paper “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash Systemwas published by Satoshi Nakamoto in October 2008 (right in middle of 2008 financially crisis), the interest in the blockchain technology has skyrocketed. Bitcoin will always keep the credit to be the first protocol, and the first decentralised application (DApp). Today the number of new protocols keep growing; You might have heard about Ethereum, a blockchain to manage smart-contracts, and currently the preferred protocol for developers to build new DApps (you can have a look at the Ethereum repository of new DApps and projects).

One of this DApps is Provenance, a supply chain tracking application connecting suppliers, manufactures, retailers and consumers/users. Provenance application is ALREADY delivering success stories across many different use cases; from a digital future for certifications such as organic food labelling and faire trade, to the empowerment of small and independent food brands and improvement of transparency in the fashion industry.

Solutions such as Provenance will forever transform the relation between consumers and industries. As I wrote last year, “Consumer awareness of the environmental and social footprints of consumer goods will shake the pillars of brand loyalty … consumer goods … will need to have end-to-end supply chain traceability as well as environmental and social footprint metrics, any product without them will have hard time to attract consumers”.

So, I state here again the business case for sustainability in the FMCG: the choice between adapting to become environmentally and socially sustainable, or become part of the history books.

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