At the Crypto Valley Summit during the World Economic Forum in Davos, ecological sustainability for the future is one of the primary talking points. Even though blockchain is on the fringes of global discussion, several experts see its usage in traceability as one of the key technologies for improving sustainability.

Industry’s current applications

Supply chain blockchain solutions allow tracking of the entire production chain of certain products. Their usage ensures that consumers and companies always know where a particular product or material comes from. This helps prevent counterfeiting, an issue that is hard to detect given the complexity of global trading systems.

Supply chain blockchains have already seen some notable adoption by global companies. Since November 2018, European retail giant Carrefour has allowed its customers to check the origin of its products via an app. Applications in raw resource tracking abound as well, such as the production of Mongolian cashmere or African barley and malt.

Several experts present in Davos shared their thoughts on the future of supply chain blockchain in presentations on Jan. 23.

Christian Di Giorgio, head of DLT solutions at Inacta AG, a Swiss company working towards blockchain adoption, focused on highlighting the importance of transparent tracking:

“Crime pays when provenance is broken. The issue is knowing where a product comes from, knowing that it’s genuine. It runs from shoes to bags to the pharma industry and B2B market — medicine and car parts, for example.”

He conceded that the problem is not easy to tackle, noting that “otherwise everyone else would’ve solved it by now.”

Di Giorgio then explained what can be done to improve the situation:

“This ecosystem needs standards. There are some serious negative economic effects here.”

Marc Degen, co-founder of ProofX, a Swiss product verification company, concurred that even though traceability “is a no-brainer,” implementing it is difficult. He explained:

“It calls for verifying supplied materials, changing packaging, labeling, and production, and even changing distribution.”

Degen also responded to potential concerns of the usage of blockchain to solve these issues. He added:

“New technologies like blockchain are overvalued in the beginning, but undervalued in the long term. At the end of the day, traceability and blockchain are a perfect match. Our approach is to start today and improve over time.”

Supply chain blockchain at WEF

On Jan. 23, the World Economic Forum organization also announced a public traceability platform based on blockchain. Its aim is to help businesses in various industries respond to “consumer demand for ethical and environmentally friendly products,” the press release reads.

The primary innovation behind the initiative is to offer a neutral, blockchain-agnostic platform to encourage cross-industry collaboration. It was created with cooperation from Everledger, Lenzing Group and others.

Dylan Love contributed reporting to this article.