David BECK analyzes technological issues from a political, economic and societal perspective.

Blockchain & Sustainability: Ensuring Trustworthy Long-term Efficiency

David BECK Academic - Geo economics & Tech

As consumer behaviors shift towards greener and more sustainable products due to climate change awareness, companies are increasingly looking to integrate a more sustainable approach to their businesses. Market-leaders are already placing sustainability at the forefront of their global product and marketing strategies.

Agriculture is experiencing several environmental, economic, and social issues that push and motivate a transition towards sustainable paths within the global economic system. To help companies digitalize and increase efficiency for sustainable business practices, leading platforms launch their blockchain solution to monitor sustainability issue.

Sustainability – an extremely urgent and universal concern, even in the technology sector

Research by The World Economic Forum has shown that the risks for companies will grow due to both the direct impact of climate change on business operations and supply chains. There have been corresponding demands for transparency on sustainable activities, with financial regulators, policymakers proposing mandatory climate risk disclosure legislation, and litigation against companies failing to disclose climate risk.

In the meantime, the majority of customers are demanding more sustainable products from brands, showing strong willingness to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative impact to the environment, especially among Generation Z. These customers are also inclined to buy products that have a clearly defined sustainability policy.

Blockchain-enabled sustainability solutions center on building a value-driven approach for businesses to streamline sustainable practices during the supply chain and manufacturing process. Blockchain technology allows businesses to reliably and accurately showcase their sustainable practices not only to consumers, but financial regulators and policymakers.

Blockchain As A Tool To Deliver Safer And Better Food

Public blockchain is fundamentally a technology of trust. By allowing all participants in the network to rapidly share information in a trustless manner, the benefits are compounded. Impactful events such as foodborne illness caused by bacteria, chemicals, viruses, parasites and toxins can be significantly lessened and product recalls more effectively targeted, minimising food waste.

Blockchain technology can reduce asymmetric access to information because all blockchain participants have access to the same information. For instance, it offers the possibility to better monitor and have access to information about product quality or provenance, which should facilitate exchanges. Several existing applications combine blockchain and food technology, with the primary idea being to solve food safety issues.

Major corporations have supported this idea. Walmart, Nestlé and IBM have formed a global food safety blockchain alliance. Their motivations are consistent with their objective of building a safe, sustainable and transparent food supply chain. The main responsibilities of the alliance are monitoring the supply chain, which involves storing supply chain data in the blockchain, and leveraging RFID technology to manage the supply chain using the blockchain.

In addition, blockchain can greatly improve traceability efficiency in food trade. Walmart, which sells 20% of all food in the U.S., has just completed two blockchain pilot projects. Prior to using blockchain, Walmart conducted a traceback test on mangoes in one of its stores. It took six days, 18 hours and 26 minutes to trace mangoes back to their original farm. By using blockchain, Walmart can provide all of the information desired by the consumer in 2.2 s.

Blockchain technology also allows specific products to be traced at any given time, which helps to reduce food waste. For instance, a system based on hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) for food supply chain traceability uses blockchain and IoT to quickly and easily trace polluted products, while safe foods remain on the shelves and are not sent to landfills.

Reminder of How Blockchain Works

Agriculture is experiencing several environmental, economic, and social issues that push and motivate a transition towards sustainable paths within the global economic system. Therefore, over the last decade, there was an exponential increase in promoting smart systems and in identifying ingenious solutions for all the sectors. Blockchain Technology has been found to be a revolutionizing technology for a number of different fields of the economy.

Blockchain technology is a digital ledger of records, called “transactions”, secured with a hash function, authenticated, and maintained through a distributed network of nodes using a consensus protocol. Nodes are all participants involved in the blockchain, each one has a copy of the blockchain and equal authority to accept or not the new blocks. The new blocks are added on the blockchain if all nodes achieve consensus on the transaction. An indestructible chain is formed, since once the new line (block) is added on the blockchain and proved from all nodes applying the hash function, it is not possible to change even a little detail in the older data by any single participant.

Therefore, as any distributed ledger technology (DLT), blockchain enables parties who do not trust or even not know each other, to interact on a peer-to-peer basis without any need of third-party authorities, and to exchange the data in a secure way. In the blockchain, parties trust each other on the basis of a consensus mechanism — a set of the rules that should be followed by each of the nodes to verify and validate the transaction and to add the block on a chain.

From this point of view, blockchain technology, the first decentralized technology originally developed for mining of cryptocurrency, has a potential to solve the problem of data reliability, transparency, and traceability, thus guaranteeing the trustworthiness of information. It represents a protocol providing the infrastructure that ensures the immutability of the information over time. Because of this property, Blockchain technology has been applied in various different areas. The benefit for the food and beverage supply chain is noteworthy.


The Blockchain Technology has a huge potential to transform and modernize a lot of industries, especially the wine supply chain. In the agri-food sector, Blockchain Technology makes the supply chain more transparent and empowers the delivery of high-quality foods with decreasing social and environmental impacts. It encourages a transparent system that benefits various stakeholders, particularly the consumers, giving them the ability to know all the necessary information about the product. The benefit of this accurate information is ample for manufacturers, suppliers, and retailers as well. Blockchain is a useful tool to ensure a traceability system and to protect the production from any type of fraud and contamination. Therefore, the ability to trace and track the product from supplier to consumer makes significant difference for consumers’ health conditions and even between life and death, consequently, for the affected businesses’ success.

Additionally, Blockchain Technology considerably simplifies sharing information between actors along the supply chain and digitizes the processes that give the possibility to trace and track the product in a significantly short time and with low costs.

Therefore, the transparent nature of Blockchain Technology and its ability to track products along the whole supply chain gives the opportunity to identify all and only the contaminated products in time, and consequently to call back from the market not the whole production but the hazardous ones. This reduces food waste, transportation needs towards the market and back, and, therefore, the use of natural resources related to harmful environmental effects.
Additionally, Blockchain Technology adoption can promote ethical issues, like fair-trade and animal welfare thanks to an inclusive development ensuring the access of small owners in a better market and ensuring safe payments or financing possibilities (e.g., FairFood, AgriLedger).

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