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Sustainable Procurement and Blockchain for Ultimate Traceability [2024]

Sustainable procurement and blockchain technology are two compelling subjects that are transforming the business landscape.

While the former lays the groundwork for ethical and environmentally friendly sourcing practices, the latter provides a secure and transparent means of recording transactions, building trust within the supply chain.

Together, they forge a powerful alliance, reshaping traditional systems and paving the way towards ethical business ecosystems.

In this article, we’ll talk about sustainable procurement and blockchain and explain how businesses no longer have to choose between profit and principles.

What is Sustainable Procurement?

Sustainable procurement is the process of purchasing goods and services that, compared to alternatives, have less of a negative impact on the environment and society. Essentially, it’s a way for businesses to do their part in preserving our planet and promoting fair practices.

How does a company go about implementing this? It’s not as complex as it sounds. It’s about choosing suppliers who are committed to environmental responsibility. It’s about selecting products that are made in a way that supports human rights and avoids harm to the environment.

Sustainable procurement also involves monitoring and managing your supply chain to ensure these standards are being met. It’s a commitment to continuous improvement and transparency.

It’s a way to show your customers and the world that you’re serious about doing business in a responsible, ethical way.

The Relevance of Blockchain Technology

Why, then, is blockchain technology crucial in this context?

Blockchain’s value lies in its ability to deliver transparency, traceability, and security in transactions. It’s a type of distributed ledger technology that records every transaction across many computers, so no record can be altered without the alteration of all subsequent blocks.

Blockchain Stock Image Infographic
Medium – Teslos Feed

Imagine you’re sourcing raw materials for your business. You want to ensure they’re sustainably produced, but how can you verify this? Here’s where blockchain comes in.

It can provide a transparent, immutable record of a product’s journey, from extraction through to final delivery.

Moreover, blockchain can reduce the risk of fraud and corruption. The blockchain architecture explained earlier ensures all transactions are transparent and traceable. It makes it harder for unethical practices to go unnoticed.

Enhancing Transparency in Procurement

With blockchain’s game-changing potential in mind, let’s dive deeper into how it enhances transparency in your procurement processes.

Here’s how this technology can increase visibility and accountability in your supply chain:

  • Immutable Record Keeping: Blockchain creates an unchangeable ledger of transactions. This means you can’t alter or delete procurement records once they’re in the system, making it impossible to cover up unethical practices.
  • Real-Time Tracking: With blockchain, you can track goods in real time from production to delivery. This ensures that you’re getting what you paid for, and it reduces the risk of fraud and counterfeiting.
  • Smart Contracts: These are paperless digital contracts that automatically execute when certain conditions are met. They help to reduce human errors and streamline procurement processes.
  • Decentralization: Since no single entity controls the blockchain, it’s difficult for anyone to manipulate the system. This decentralization enhances transparency and trust among all parties involved.

Check out this video by Zmodal on how blockchain can be used in supply chain logistics:

Blockchain’s Impact on Traceability

Blockchain’s traceability capabilities can dramatically improve your ability to monitor goods, ensuring ethical sourcing and reducing instances of fraud. This technology provides a secure and verifiably transparent way to record product journeys from origin to consumer.

Imagine you’re a clothing retailer committed to ethical sourcing. With blockchain, you’ll know exactly where your cotton came from, who harvested it, and how it was transported.

If there’s a hitch or a questionable practice at any point, you’ll see it. You can then make informed decisions, not just for your business but for the betterment of the global community.

Blockchain’s traceability also aids in combating fraud. Counterfeit products are a massive problem in many industries, causing financial loss and damaging reputations. But blockchain’s irreversible record-keeping makes it difficult for fraudsters to operate.

Once a product is logged onto the blockchain, its history can’t be altered or deleted. This makes it easier for you to spot discrepancies and shut down fraudulent activities.

Fostering Trust in Supply Chains

Blockchain allows you to create a transparent and secure record of all transactions. This transparency helps build trust because everyone in the supply chain can see exactly what’s happening at each stage.

As already discussed, no one can alter or delete any part of the transaction history, ensuring the integrity of the data.

Additionally, blockchain provides an immutable audit trail. In other words, you can trace back every product to its origin. This traceability is particularly valuable in industries where authenticity and ethical sourcing are critical.

For example, you can verify that a diamond hasn’t been sourced from conflict zones or that a fish has been sustainably caught.

Blockchain’s decentralized nature also fosters trust. There’s no central authority that can be compromised. Instead, everyone in the network maintains and verifies the blockchain. This decentralization makes it extremely difficult for any one party to manipulate the system for their benefit.

Case Studies: Blockchain in Action

How do sustainable procurement and blockchain work in real-life scenarios to enhance sustainable procurement and build ethical business ecosystems?

Let’s take a look at four compelling case studies:

1. Everledger Sustainable Procurement and Blockchain Case Study: Everledger Diamond Journey

EverledgerThis company uses blockchain to track the provenance of diamonds, helping to ensure they’re ethically sourced. You’re able to trace each diamond’s journey from mine to market, promoting transparency and discouraging conflict diamonds.

2. Provenance

Sustainable Procurement and Blockchain Case Study: Provenance Traceable Food Supply Chains
Source

This UK startup uses blockchain to provide transparent supply chains for food and drinks. You can see where your food comes from and whether it’s been produced sustainably.

3. IBM Food Trust

Sustainable Procurement and Blockchain Case Study: IBM Food Trust
Source

This initiative leverages blockchain to track food products’ journey from farm to store. It’s about ensuring the food you consume is safe, responsibly sourced, and of high quality.

4. De Beers

Sustainable Procurement and Blockchain Case Study: De Beers Diamonds
Source

The diamond giant uses blockchain to track the journey of each diamond, ensuring they’re free from conflict and ethically sourced.

The Future of Blockchain in Sustainable Procurement 

The impact of blockchain on sustainable procurement is still emerging, and it stands to revolutionize this sector even further. Let’s discuss its future trajectories.

  • First, blockchain could remove the need for third-party auditors to verify ethical practices throughout supply chains. This will cut costs and save time.
  • Second, the merger of blockchain with other technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) tools and the Internet of Things (IoT), is expected. This would improve real-time tracking and automate inspections, making supply chain management more efficient. For example, AI can predict procurement needs in smart contracts. The combination of IoT and blockchain can aid in tracing a product’s complete lifecycle, promoting a circular economy.
  • In addition, implementing blockchain could simplify sustainability reporting – a growing requirement for global businesses. Transparency offered by blockchain could standardize these reports, making them more verifiable.

However, challenges exist, too. 

  • Legal and standardization frameworks need to be developed to prevent abuse and ensure security. 
  • Also, businesses need to upgrade their infrastructure and offer employee training to fully exploit this technology.

Despite the hurdles, blockchain holds massive potential in driving sustainable and ethical business practices, thereby creating a new paradigm of businesses profiting by being responsible.

About the Author: Anna Escobin

 Anna Escobin is a content writer at Husky Hamster. When she’s not busy tapping away on her keyboard, Anna spends most of her time feeding her addiction to Asian coming-of-age movies or enjoying a cup of instant coffee up in the mountains.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is sustainable procurement, and how does it make a difference?

Sustainable procurement refers to the acquisition of goods and services that cause minimal harm to the environment and society in comparison to alternatives. It underpins a business's commitment to ethical practices and the preservation of our planet. Delve into this subject further in the What is Sustainable Procurement? Section of the article.

How does blockchain technology contribute to sustainable procurement?

Blockchain brings transparency and indelibility to a product's lifecycle record, promoting sustainability and mitigating fraud risks. This contributes to creating more ethical supply chains. The Relevance of Blockchain Technology section offers an in-depth explanation of how blockchain aligns with sustainability.

What role does blockchain technology play in enhancing procurement transparency?

Blockchain amplifies transparency in procurement through its unique features like immutable transaction records, real-time tracking, smart contracts, and decentralization. Explore these attributes in detail in the Enhancing Transparency in Procurement and Blockchain's Impact on Traceability sections of this guide.

What could the future of blockchain in sustainable procurement look like?

The potential future of sustainable procurement and blockchain involves disruptive modifications like redefining third-party audits, collaborations with AI and IoT for better efficiency, and possibly simplifying sustainability reporting. For detailed insights, refer to the The Future of Blockchain in Sustainable Procurement section.

References and Useful Resources

Brightest: Sustainable Procurement

Casper: Guide to Blockchain Architecture

Sustainable Review: Sustainable Sourcing Using Blockchain

Everledger: Industry Solutions

IBM: Food Trust (Pdf)

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