Last summer I wrote about my desire to be a superhero –to help companies buy IT products and services ethically and help suppliers create new opportunities for themselves and their people. When people source ethically they can reduce a lot of bad in the world – child labor, human trafficking, working conditions that harm and kill people, and a host of other problems.
Yesterday at SAP Ariba Live, the software company announced that it was partnering with blockchain provenance firm Everledger to explore the use of blockchain across Ariba’s suite of applications. As a first step, the two companies are working on a track and trace (provenance) application.
Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp and SAP Ariba Senior Vice President Joe Fox discussed the application and broader blockchain implications at the event, talking about empowering an ethical supply chain. They see a future where using blockchain to track goods from their raw materials through their final delivery would help companies have visibility into the entire supply chain. This would then allow companies to avoid problems such as:
- Counterfeit goods being swapped in for the original goods at some point in the journey
- Unintentionally supporting illegal and unethical conduct by suppliers and other third parties involved in conflict minerals like blood diamonds because you couldn’t tell where the diamond originated
- Being out of compliance with government or industry regulations because related to the point above, you couldn’t prove that the product was made without conflict minerals or other illegal inputs
Undoubtedly, this announcement is a huge win for blockchain technology. It’s a major software company investing in a specific commercial application. It also reinforces the importance of provenance as a key blockchain “killer app,” coming soon after IBM’s announcement with Maersk that the two firms would work together to trace shipping containers. We’ve written before that provenance will get adopted faster than many fintech blockchain applications. These two deals show movement in that direction.
Even more powerful is the business and human story about making the world a better place. SAP Ariba’s and Everledger’s message of using blockchain to help business work more effectively AND to improve the lives of people is inspiring. It’s what technology is supposed to do, and we’re hoping to see more companies explicitly make corporate social responsibility a key factor in their technology decisions.