Can Blockchain Technology Ensure Ethical Fashion?
Disclaimer: We were not compensated nor affiliated with any companies mentioned in this article.
In a previous post, RCZ talked about how bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies eat up a lot of electricity and are taxing on the environment. One startling statistic is that the bitcoin network uses more energy than 159 countries! Although the thought that cryptocurrencies causing ecological harm is depressing, there could be a bright side to this. I believe that the technology underpinning the bitcoin network called blockchain could be used to ensure ethical fashion.
Personally, I'm more excited about blockchain technology than bitcoin itself. So, what is blockchain anyway? In the bitcoin network, blockchain is the open, distributed ledger that can be used to track all bitcoin transactions. In other words, you can see the history and the accounts associated with each activity. You can even go back to the very first bitcoin transaction called the ‘genesis block’! To be clear, although you can track it, all accounts are under "code names” so no one actually knows who the people or entities are behind them. Anonymity is one popular feature of bitcoin.
Let's relate this to ethical fashion. Common questions surrounding ethical fashion include: Who made my clothes? What are the materials? Where did they come from? Where was this garment made? How was it made? We rely on companies to provide answers and hope that they are honest. Now imagine that materials, aspects of the supply chain and manufacturing processes could be tracked electronically...and we can see it! With blockchain, the idea is that these details could be viewed, verified and, most importantly, trusted.
Here is a great intro video on how blockchain can be used to verify the supply chain of fish using software called Hyperledger Sawtooth Lake. You can start to visualize how this can track the provenance of other products as well.
Even though we could see how blockchain could make an impact, the technology is still in its infancy. We are simply not at a point where there is mass adoption or use. Thankfully some companies are exploring this. Here are a few:
- Blockverify - Their use cases include luxury items and diamonds
- Provenance - I love their blockchain case study with fashion company Martine Jarlgaard London
- Skuchain - They provide general supply chain tracking
Applying blockchain to the fashion industry is definitely hopeful and exciting. There will finally be a way to ensure ethical and sustainable practices! What a great win! I'm looking forward to see where it goes from here.
What do you think about blockchain and fashion? Let us know in the comments.