Ensuring ethical sourcing is a major focus area for many companies as they start to understand just how important it is to their buyers, writes Craig Nel, Mobile & Cognitive Experience Leader at Oracle Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Increasingly, brands are understanding they must show they’re thinking about the wider impact they are having on society.  That’s because end-to-end ethics is something that matters to broad swathes of society, with those who love good food and show as much passion for knowing where their food has come from as they support their favourite bands.

Yet, when it comes down to showing one’s credentials, showing proof of the many components and third parties involved in the manufacture of products can be difficult. Manufacturing is not a simple process and, without producing long lists on clothing labels or, say, food packaging, it’s been hard to show just how a product has been created.

When tragedy strikes

It is also difficult to trace the path that food has traveled when tragedy strikes. An example of where blockchain could have made a big difference in South Africa is the listeriosis outbreak which was an avoidable tragedy that sadly cost many lives. Globally, there is a lack of transparency and traceability into the journey of food produce from the farm to the shop shelf. The listeriosis outbreak demonstrated how finding the source of the outbreak as quickly and as efficiently as possible is of utmost importance.

Blockchain provides the ability to instantaneously trace the entire lifecycle of food products from origin through every point of contact on its journey to the consumer.

If implemented, blockchain would allow consumers to be able to see exactly where their food was grown, the type of pesticides and antibiotics that were used, where it was processed – including a host of information at this stage – and even how it compares to other products on the shelf. The consumer would therefore be able to make an intelligent decision about the grocery item.

This is why we are increasingly seeing blockchain being used to provide a secure and reliable record or ledger for companies to track the movement and traceability of goods, including their origins and constituent ingredients.

Blockchain integration

By integrating blockchain into their existing supplier management systems and throughout their partner network, companies can incorporate the technology into their supply chain easily and quickly. This lets them reliably share and conduct trusted transactions with their suppliers and trade partners and ensure that all stages of the process are tracked and verified by a stamp of approval from a number of third parties.

A great example of an organisation doing this is Certified Origins. This producer of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is looking to blockchain to support Bellucci Evoo, a brand it sells in the US market, which is made from fruits grown in small family farms in Italy.

Blockchain technology will help it guarantee the product is completely ethically produced. Blockchain gives Certified Origins and Bellucci a smart contract system, using embedded code to trace transactions from the bottling facility to the port of arrival, gaining quality assurances that further distinguishes the company as experts in the authentic credible traceability of its products.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, traceability is our area of expertise,” said Andrea Biagianti, CIO of Certified Origins. “That’s thanks to operational and quality processes tested and improved over the years and to advanced and developing IT systems. Managing traceability with blockchain technology seemed the logical progression of the whole traceability process.”

Gain transparency, traceability and trust

Trust through traceability is a touchstone for so many brands, just as it is for Certified Origins and its Bellucci brand. Being able to guarantee country of origin, mode of production and quality to the end customer is paramount in an era where people want to make informed decisions about their food choices seeking out organic or ethically sourced foods. Proving a product’s origins can make the difference between whether a consumer buys it or not, and blockchain technology can help provide that information.

The potential use cases for blockchain technology are incredibly diverse. In Nigeria, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) adopted Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service to build a trusted platform for the automation of customs excise trade business processes and procedures. Using this technology, the NCS could migrate their entire business environment to blockchain and so automate processes and create transparency and predictability. The technology is helping the NCS to build global trust for Nigerian businesses through irrefutable data on goods manufactured in the country.

As consumers become more discerning, manufacturers need to start thinking how they can get their supply chains set up to be able to prove exactly where their goods have come from. Integrating blockchain seamlessly into their existing systems is an extremely straightforward step for more manufacturers to accordingly take.

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