Blockchain & Supply Chain Transparency

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Blockchain & Supply Chain Transparency

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My phone can tell me everything about my finances, where I am on a map precisely, and the best way to my next destination – all with the click of a button. But this availability of information and transparency almost completely disappears when it comes to consumer products. For example, how do you know that the coffee you buy is actually Fairtrade? More often than not, we simply do not.

The path to Supply Chain Transparency

Few people outside the supply chain function used to care where products came from. Nowadays, everyone from company leaders to interest groups to consumers wants to know something, if not everything, about a product’s origins. We can utilise technology to solve this gap in information and many of the specific technologies required to do that have become more sophisticated, cost-effective, and scalable. Such technologies help to create transparency and traceability in supply chains, and through that help to completely revolution the way that we buy, and also produce products.

Supply Chain Transparency requires companies to know what is happening in the supply chain and to communicate this knowledge both internally and externally.

Making it a reality

There are numerous emerging technologies that can help achieve Supply Chain Transparency, and one of the most popular solutions for enterprises is Blockchain.

In order for you to be certain, you would need a record of all transactions and the journey of an item; this would be possible with Blockchain technology. Blockchain was initially made for financial transactions but it is now revolutionising the business world – especially, supply chains. With regular transactions there is a ‘middleman’, a centralised system (such as a bank), that registers the transaction. But with Blockchain, transactions are between user to user, and the information is stored on a shared ledger (like a shared Google doc), known as a ‘block’. These blocks are linked together to form a Blockchain. In a blockchain database, every node maintains a copy of the shared ledger. Each transaction on the Blockchain is recorded in computer code, showing who the parties are, transaction details, time, and most importantly a unique encrypted digital signature – enabling each block of information to be securely connected to all the rest. This connection provides an audit trail of every transaction that is ever occurred in a system, maintaining accuracy and reliability. It is precisely this system of full transparency and connectedness that lends the Blockchain its trust and credibility.

Today, supply chain data is typically stored in silos (like sharing a Microsoft Word file). But with Blockchain, the data is stored publicly in a shared database and is virtually tamperproof. This decentralised technology can act as a catalyst for this revolution and add real value as it can help mitigate some of the trust issues that are inherent to information sharing.

What do consumers expect?

If we have reliable and trustworthy information, and the right systems that make use of it, consumers will support those who are doing the right thing by producing products in a sustainable and ethical way, and continue to choose their goods over others. Consumers expect a seamless experience. They expect services to be fast and relevant, with personal interactions, aligned with their values. As a result, fulfilment of the right value becomes more important than notable brands.