Tech giants IBM have revealed two new blockchain social responsibility projects. Child labor exploitation in the metals trade is the main target of both projects. IBM’s announcement represents the latest example of blockchain technology working towards the greater good.
The pilot schemes are the result of partnerships with automotive powerhouse Ford and LG. Specifically, the mining and supply of metals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mexico are its prime concern.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s leading exporters of cobalt. Ford’s supply chain is as follows. Cobalt is first extracted at source in the country before being passed to China. From there it goes on to a LG battery manufacturing facility in South Korea. The final leg of the journey then sees the cobalt end up at Ford’s manufacturing plants in the US.
An initial trial project is to begin next month. The scheme will see 1.5 tonnes of cobalt leaving Congo tracked on the blockchain for the first time. Furthermore, the pilot scheme aims to track every stage of the supply chain.
The Hyperledger Fabric protocol forms the basis of the system. This will enable stage by stage verification that mines are adhering to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which specifically outlaws child labor.
Also, the system can flag mines in breach. The discovery of unlawful practices will result in either of two actions. Either the adoption of firm preventative measures, or switching to other, more ethical suppliers.
According to IBM general manager for global industrial products Manish Chawla, blockchain was the ideal technology for this use case.
“Blockchain is the most effective technology to provide a real-time access to all the due diligence processes, provide visibility to the supply chain from the miners to the market…Our role in IBM is that we are bringing people together for this project and developing the platform.”
In a separate project, IBM announced it has partnered with MineHub Technologies. The latter is developing a blockchain platform for tracking sustainable and ethical production of metals. The system allows for more data to be added as simple transactions at each stage of the supply chain. In this way, end-users and regulators will thus be able to access real-time sourcing data.
These blockchain social responsibility projects show the extent to which blockchain, the technology that powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, can improve supply chains. Moreover, it can subsequently help companies to fight back against exploitative practices in metal extraction and other industries.