By - Brian Iselin
Published : 18-10-2018
Slavefreetrade has come into being at a time of revolutionary technology that enables our mission. We are often asked about our technology, which can best be described as ‘cutting edge blockchain’. Slavefreetrade is a working use case for at least seven innovative blockchain applications.
The key point to be made is the interconnectivity and interoperability of most of those applications; we are building an entire ecosystem around ethical business and supply chain transparency. And while our goal is to end slavery, everything we are developing on the technology has far broader application and potential greater impact than only on slavery.
The spine of our work is a custom-built end-to-end supply chain tracking system built on the Ethereum blockchain. This application is ready for our pilot programme with the first of the ethical businesses joining our Business Alliance. We can track the worksites in a supply chain from plantation to retailer shelf, through all steps in the value chain. We can imbue the products from those worksites with unique information about their background and our own assessment of their anti-slavery performance. And we can label them guaranteed slave-free.
At various intersections with this worksite verification spine, we are building a number of decentralised applications (dapps) to connect the information to those who need or want it:
1. A consumer-facing application focused on correcting the information asymmetry in the retail market today. This dapp seeks to better connect ethical consumers with ethical retailers. This is aimed at addressing the at-least 40% shortfall between ethical consumers and ethical products; while lots of people want to buy ethical, they a) cannot find them, and b) have too little information at point of sale. (Phase 1)
2. A business-facing dapp, to better connect ethical retailer and manufacturers with ethical sources. Again, this is aimed at addressing the very substantial shortfall in the market of ethical businesses wanting to find ethical sources but having considerable trouble and expense doing so; (Phase 2)
3. An auditor-facing dapp for completing assessments (both internal preparedness assessments and external assessor modes) made on our assessment framework which is in turn built against our labour and supply chain principles. This application overcomes much of the fraud related to audit; biometric protection, GPS and time-locked for completion and immutable after signing. (Phase 3)
We have several additional projects of relevance to slavery, and more broadly:
1. Distributed cryptoidentity for workers. Many workers around the world are more vulnerable to slavery because of their lack of identity. These people are either displaced, and therefore living and working outside their normal homes, or are a population overlooked by the government of their territory, not recognised, and not provided identity documents. We believe by providing distributed cryptoidentity for these vulnerable workers we can promote their inclusion in the workforce and improve the safety of any related migration or movement, as well as enable other connections with them such as efforts to promote their financial inclusion and access to much-needed health services. While the UN has a project, Identity2020, aimed at similar outcomes, we will be working faster than this and will focus on populations that are otherwise not reached by Identity2020.
2. Cryptocurrency for Social Impact. This is also Ethereum blockchain and involves tokenising social impact actions, such as going slave-free. So that, over time, those businesses taking the most steps to be ethical and sustainable will earn digital currency which can be traded in our ecosystem for other things, such as better credit terms, cheaper insurance etc.
3. Real-time verification of workplace conditions: much slavery occurs in and around audits and site visits. We are deploying an analogue system for worker connectivity. All sites assessed by slavefreetrade to be slave-free, to retain the use of our label, must facilitate and encourage their staff to be in direct contact with us. We make use of this contact opportunity to monitor for change in workplace conditions. This is especially useful for sites that have not crossed any red lines, and whose assessment was overall sufficient to apply for our label, but still need some attention on one or more of our principles. Always urging continuous improvement, we monitor for demonstrable progress against the watch-listed principles. Without that progress being verified by us, the site loses the rights to use our label. We are also examining the possibilities for blockchain conversion of this system.
Much that was not possible just five years ago, now is, by virtue of the decentralised and immutable nature of the blockchain. While none of us know where this technology will take us, and it is also not without its weaknesses, it enables organisations like slavefreetrade to come up with astounding and innovative solutions to old challenges.
We will continue to innovate in the social impact space, and seek technological support for solutions to social impact issues. All partners welcome.