Firstly, for all the newbies out there: What is blockchain in its most basic parts?
Most people associate blockchain with bitcoin. And that is one way of utilizing it, but it can be so much more. Blockchain is in many ways how the internet was envisioned at the beginning – a decentralized network – before a few powerful companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon made it a lot more centralized. So, I believe, what a blockchain has the potential to do is put the power of the web into the hands of the many, rather than at the will of a few. It’s a way of collaborating across the web without centralized control points. Bitcoin is a good example as it is such a contrast to traditional banking. It’s a currency run with a decentralized system that’s user-controlled.
Tell me a bit more about Provenance and your vision for the company?
Blockchain is only a fraction of what we do. We’re a social enterprise that’s mission-driven. Our goal is to help brands be more transparent when it comes to the impact of their products. That can be to put stickers highlighting your carbon footprint on the back of the bottles or telling the world about what impact your product has on you, people or the planet. You might think that’s kind of a hard sell, but it actually isn’t anymore. We’ve got both governmental regulations and consumer demands on our side, so it’s not a crazy idea anymore. Provenance wants to set a standard by using comprehensive data and a clear methodology that enables easy comparisons through verified sources. We translate data into consumer knowledge and demands on different areas of impact; for example carbon footprints, protection of the oceans or assurance of quality or waste reduction. Transparency needs to be communicated in a consistent, comprehensive and credible way. Provenance helps verify claims and when that’s done, we issue a Proof Point – a kind of badge that says a certain claim made by a brand is proven and verified. We also work with verifiers that are trustworthy and all the links in the blockchain are fully visible.
Are there any potential negative aspects or limitations of this technology?
Of course. For one, lots of things are still under development. There’s a lack of standards, a lack of UX-designers and business developers – due to the technology having a high threshold for understanding. But the biggest challenge to overcome is that we currently live in a world governed by an oligopoly of information owners.
Can you tell me more about how Provenance and The Absolut Company are teaming up around challenges related to supply chains?
We’re involved in a pilot project with one of their brands; where we helped them have a look at how they could be more transparent on their impact on the world. There are a lot of pitfalls and we’ve helped them discover the traces they leave behind and how to be as transparent as they possibly can. For them, it’s a way of being more credible and more open. It’s also about showing how they’re making progress.
What kind of outcomes do you foresee?
I think there is a strong, brand-building case to be made for showing new Proof Points around your supply chain. New information can, for instance, be updated annually to build trust behind the brand claims. In short, it’s a great case of how you can show and share your impact with consumers – who are ultimately the ones making decisions.