How digital identity empowers consumers and producers in a circular supply chain

Most of us can relate to wanting to know where our food comes from – if it is safe to eat, ethically sourced, and whether that commodity harms the environment or is produced in a sustainable way. The topics of food safety, recall, waste management and ethical sourcing are justifiably getting a lot of attention. Consumers are demanding a greater level of transparency and assurance.

What if we could empower consumers with more trusted information at their fingertips so they can directly reward and incentivize small scale suppliers around the world that are committed to following sustainable practices? Imagine a future where more people could fully participate in the growing value of the green economy. With a powerful combination of blockchain, digital identity, payments and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities, we at Accenture believe this is possible and imperative.  

Leveraging these capabilities, we collaboratively developed a solution built on Hyperledger Fabric that generates a new kind of value for producers. We call this capability circular supply chain. 

Here’s how it works: Let’s imagine a coffee farmer, for example. Using an app on their phone, the producer creates a profile, entering basic details like their name, date of birth, and the name of their coffee farm. At their cooperative, their identity is validated, using multiple security protocols.

The farmer’s identifier is then recorded on the blockchain, which acts as an index with links to all applicable data—including things like their payment details so they can receive tips or add attestation that prove their farm’s inspection history and certification status (organic, etc.). This makes it easy to locate, access and share information without the farmer’s personal data being stored on the blockchain.  

The app on the farmer’s phone is multi-factored and authentication-secured; it allows the farmer to generate their own set of public and private keys seamlessly which the farmer can then use to sign data they send to others. 

The farmer is always in control of their data, determining which information is part of their public profile or what details will be linked to a particular product as it moves through the supply chain. They can also use the app as a management tool to keep track of product registrations, check their tip balance, renew certifications and prepare a harvest for shipment.  

When a shipment is ready and registered, a unique identifier is automatically generated, embedding information about the coffee, the farmer and their farm (like its organic certification), and then scanned, captured, and verified at the point of origin.

Sensors can then be added, and registered, to the product at the cooperative warehouse. These sensors can monitor temperature and humidity within the warehouse to ensure product quality. And if the conditions go out of the optimal range, an alert is generated, prompting the warehouse to take preventative actions before the product quality is compromised. 

These details, and each step the shipment takes along the journey, are scanned, added to the ledger and traceable as it moves across the supply chain—from farmers to processors to grocery store shelves and, finally, to end consumers. Now a simple scan not only tells consumers the story of their sustainably-sourced coffee and the farmers that grew it but empowers them to reward the farmer via a secure tip. 

The benefit is a circular supply chain that goes beyond where it started and creates a closer connection between consumers and small growers. Processors, distributors, wholesalers and retailers can trace product provenance, creating market differentiation for sustainability, food security and quality. The hope is that by aligning incentives through an immersive customer experience that fosters informed purchasing decisions, we can empower an inclusive economy that encourages the actions to mitigate environmental impact and benefit people. 

Accenture has created this capability, but it’s just a start. We invite organizations across industries and the globe to collaborate with us as we collectively build a more sustainable and inclusive world. 

Read our report on circular supply chain and learn how to collaborate with us. You may also be interested in joining the Hyperledger Identity WG or Supply Chain SIG to see how others in this space are approaching this digital transformation.

Cover image via Peakpx