Privacy is easily the most sought-after commodity of our modern era. Corporations around the world that handle vast volumes of personal (private) information have recently been under public scrutiny as privacy scandals come to light – the people are losing trust in the businesses. It is this declining trust, a result of all the privacy breeches, that has pushed business to dive into blockchain technology, especially publicly hosted blockchains. The global foods behemoth, Nestle is now diving into public blockchain technology to enhance its dairy supply chain.
In a joint partnership with Australia-based start up, OpenSC – founded in 2019 by the World Wide Fund For Nature Australia (WWF-Australia) and Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures – Nestle will be moving its supply chain to a public blockchain.
This venture “is complementary to what we do with IBM with Food Trust,” said Nestle blockchain lead and supply chain digital transformation manager Benjamin Dubois, “We were looking at a solution to increase a step further than IFT in terms of transparency for our supply chain.”
IBM’s Food Trust blockchain-bsed tracebility endeavour, which was established in 2017, was established to improve the transparency, standardisation and efficiency throughout the food supply chain. Nestle was one of the founding partners of this project, and in 2019 had announced a team up to provide customers the ability to track Mousline Puree throughout the supply chain.
“Something that allows full disclosure, without any Nestle control, where the data is uploaded by every actor along the value chain and is available for anyone and anywhere to take on this data,” Dubois said. This would allow people to “make their judgement on the sustainability factors of [Nestle’s] supply chain,” he added.
The difference between IBM’s Food Trust initiative and Nestle’s most recent blockchain project, is in the aspect of greater transparency which is achieved in the latter. In IBM’s permissioned blockchain, it is currently not possible for the general public to participate. One would have to join the consortium and the solution to be able to part-take. The public blockchain, however, provides a greater pool of independently available information for the public to see regarding the process and journey products go through in their lifetime, prior to reaching the hands of customers.
“With a public solution, we see that it’s much easier for people to participate […] The aim is not one replacing the other. It’s really to compliment. The Food Trust solution is very much a business-to-business solution. It’s very powerful. It’s a fast solution as well. It can handle the scale of Nestle, but for specific use cases where the commitment of the group is full transparency, we see a public solution as something that can enable us to reach that goal.”
Nestle’s initiative for increased transparency is to start with their chain of dairy products that originate from New Zealand to their Middle Eastern sites, and plans to track palm oil from their sources in the Americas in the coming future.
In conclusion, Nestle wants to migrate its supply chain information to a public blockchain where it is available for everyone to see and make their own judgement on what they choose to buy – but one may ask, to what extent is this supposed “freedom and transparency” a true picture of what goes on behind the scenes? Nestle says that it wants its customers to have the freedom to decide on what they want to buy by giving them the “truth”. A fact is a fact but facts can be misleading. I guess what I am trying to say is, when does Nestle’s “truth” about its means of sourcing out chocolate reach the public eye? Ivory coast and the child labour, how “transparent” will Nestle really be willing to get?