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Provenance Partners with Unilever, Sainsbury’s, Banks, to Aid Smallholder Farmers

Image Credit: Provenance

Provenance is leading a new collaboration of fintech startups to test whether blockchain technology can help unlock financial incentives that improve transparency and sustainability in agricultural supply chains. The group, which also includes Landmapp, FOCAFET Foundation and Halotrade will be working with partners including the Department for International Development (DFID), Unilever, Sainsbury’s, Sappi and global banks Barclays, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered.

The year-long project, which was announced at the UN’s One Planet Summit, will test the concept — linking financial incentives to verifiable sustainability claims and transparent supply chains — using a shared data system for 10,0000 Malawian tea farmers in the Sainsbury’s and Unilever supply chains. The project has secured more than £600,000 in funding and will also track the materials used in producing the tea’s packaging, provided by Sappi, a global provider of sustainable wood fiber products and solutions.

“Unilever has committed to sourcing 100 percent of its raw agricultural materials sustainably,” said Keith Weed, Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Sustainable Business at Unilever.

“This innovative new technology will help us to increase sustainable sourcing, enhance the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers we work with around the world and help to make sustainable agriculture mainstream. We have an important role to play in providing healthy food from a healthy planet and we’re proud to be working with industry leaders on new technologies to bring us closer to this goal.”

Provenance collaborated with Halotrade, a blockchain-based ethical supply chain financing platform that uses digital ledger technology to trigger smart contracts, to develop the technology. Additionally, cloud platform Landmapp will provide land rights documentation via its mobile app, and FOCAFET Foundation will help develop and ensure the use of open-source data standards.

The pilot aims to demonstrate the commercial viability of blockchain and other technologies for a range of different global supply chains. If successful, it could benefit the 1.5 billion families who depend on small-scale agriculture worldwide.

The project will allow retailers to track and prove social sustainability claims in their supply chains, empower banks to finance good practice and lower costs in the supply chain, as well as enabling customers to understand the impact of their purchase.

“This technology has the real potential to help banks access more detailed and more reliable information about social and environmental impacts in a secure way, throughout the entire supply chain,” said Marguerite Burghardt, Head of the Finance Competence Center at BNP Paribas. “This will benefit the entire supply chain ecosystem, enabling financial institutions to broaden the scope of their financing offers and to propose financial incentives to their customers, clients, based on their environmental and social standards.”

The cutting-edge technology will gather and record standardized information from farmers about their crops (such as price and quality) using virtual identifiers on a blockchain. The information will be visible to all actors across the supply chain with access the blockchain, thereby enhancing traceability and transparency. Financial institutions will then use the blockchain data to assess sustainability performance and provide credit or preferential terms to their clients.

The project is convened by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and was developed by a new Taskforce on Financial Technology, which was assembled by CISL’s Banking Environment Initiative at a summit hosted earlier this year by HRH The Prince of Wales.

The project builds on other successful Provenance blockchain supply chain projects to-date, including the first international supply chain pilot tracking slavery-free fish through Southeast Asia for the UK, US and Japanese markets, as well as its ongoing work with the Co-op supermarket and over 300 other businesses using Provenance software services to make their products transparent and trusted. Provenance also recently collaborated with Sourcemap to link the two digital platforms for supply chain transparency, allowing brands to address inefficiencies and unsustainable and unethical practices through supply chain mapping, data collection and tracking of verified claims with the movement of product.


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