A blockchain platform has been launched by WWF-Australia to trace products throughout supply chains.
WWF-Australia has partnered with BCG Digital Ventures (BCGDV) to create OpenSC, which tracks food and products and enables businesses and consumers to avoid produce linked to environmental damage and unethical practices such as slavery.
Using digital tags, the produce is entered into the blockchain platform. QR codes created from the tags can be scanned, providing consumers with specific information such as where it was caught, when and how it was prepared and details about its journey through the supply chain, including carbon miles and storage temperature.
BCGDV managing director, Paul Hunyor said: “In addition to providing transparency about the origin of an item’s production, OpenSC helps optimise business supply chain operations, reduces costs, and enables producers to manage issues such as product recalls.”
The plaform, designed to work alongside firms' existing supply chain software, requires a fee but WWF said this was designed to cover costs and allow further investment.
One of the first product journeys to be recorded was of the Patagonian toothfish, caught in sub-Antarctic waters by Austral Fisheries and shipped to Australia where it was served in a restaurant in Sydney.
Hunyor said: “We have developed technology that can reliably pinpoint the exact location where each toothfish was caught and then use machine learning to demonstrate that it was caught legally in an MSC-certified sustainable fishery, and in particular that the fish was not caught inside an established marine protected area or in an environmentally sensitive area.”
Phil Freeman, strategist and OpenSC lead at WWF-Australia said: “As a profit-for-purpose venture, OpenSC aims to improve the supply chains of commodities and products that currently drive some of the world’s greatest environmental and social problems.”
Freeman said it was critical to work with businesses to design and implement technology that works in practice for workers who are busy on their farm, boat, processing facility, or another point in the supply chain. He said while it costs businesses to join the platform, data from their products, including verified claims about sustainability, will be stored in a reliable, accessible and tamper-proof way.
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the platform will give businesses and consumers a “whole new level” of transparency about whether the food they eat is contributing to environmental degradation or social injustice such as slavery.
He said: “OpenSC will revolutionise how we all buy food and other products, enabling us to reduce pressure on habitats and species, while also protecting human rights, and enabling more informed decision-making by consumers, businesses, governments and industry bodies.”
The launch follows a successful pilot, which tracked tuna caught in the Pacific, and comes as research by Melbourne and Groningen Universities revealed that only one tinned tuna brand that imports from Thailand could confidently say there is no slavery in its supply chain.
Thailand is Australia’s biggest seafood importer and according to the research is prone to modern slavery due to its size, lack of regulation, extent of illegal operations, and exploitation of migrant workers.