Traceability is the foundation of truly sustainable supply chains

The world of consumer goods is changing for the better, with much greater emphasis on ethical sourcing and sustainability than ever before. Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, not all businesses and stakeholders are willing to change, particularly if it means their business models will be challenged in the process.

This reticence has quickly given rise to the unsavoury practice of ‘greenwashing’, where businesses try and use clever marketing to mislead consumers and appear more ethical and environmentally friendly than they are.

While many businesses using such tactics are quickly being exposed, it remains increasingly widespread. The scepticism it creates, however, is causing real issues for those that want to demonstrate genuinely ethical practices. For this reason, accurate traceability throughout the supply chain has never been more important.

In the past, it was difficult to achieve. With most agricultural producers being smallholder farmers all around the world, tracing produce back to the farm level was practically impossible, and there were no means to organise data in a way that allowed it to be easily accessed and distributed throughout the supply chain.

Fortunately, modern technology is finally helping to make it a reality. At farmer connect®we enable consumers, farmers, and everyone in between to access and leverage accurate insights into the complete supply chain of their coffee and chocolate products in a matter of seconds, using blockchain based on IBM technology and artificial intelligence. Doing so helps always ensure transparency and traceability, no matter the level or location in the process.

These past years, media reports have shown agricultural malpractices on many levels (deforestation, pollution, child labour, etc.), and often this is claimed to be entering the supply chain of some of the leading companies in the world. Since then, we have been asked by numerous supply chain companies, partners, NGOs, and governments how to support progressive agricultural practices in these agriculture supply chains. Our Farmer ID app is designed to do just that, allowing farmers to have a self-sovereign digital identity that provides a digital audit, ensuring farmers are incentivised to have better agricultural practices, paying government-regulated wages and receiving a premium for their produce when doing so. Going one step further, the Thank My Farmer™ app allows consumers to trace product origins and the quality of the commodity via QR codes, and even provide financial support directly to the producer that grew the raw goods.

The UK government has recently established an independent expert group to crackdown on businesses that are ‘greenwashing’, highlighting the growing importance of this contentious issue. This will be a long process and not an overnight change, so for the businesses that already engage in sustainable practices, technology platforms can be the foundation to prove any ethical claims they make are genuine.

Giving people the ability to trace a product all the way back to its origin not only builds trust, but also bolsters brand reputation in uncertain times. Traceability is not an all-or-nothing concept either. It can be built and progressed until it incorporates the entire supply chain. While this should be every business’s goal, just getting started is a huge step in the right direction.

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