By Dr. Tauni Lanier
Originally published on LinkedIn
When thinking about the #SDGs and cryptocurrencies, one immediately thinks of ‘value’. What value? What is value? Do the SDGs attract their own value proposition? Can cryptocurrencies be used to get to the billions needed, for example, to fund Mumbai’s clean water systems? There is an institutional investor play as they have the billions! But, another way for the thesis to work; can a bridge be built between consumers, citizens, and institutional investors? There would need a lot of faith in digital currency to get there, but it is worth the endeavour.
I have written about the fundamental disruptive activities of a system entrepreneur on the SDGs, but what about funding the SDGs? Now to scratch below the surface, how to use Cryptocurrencies to fund the SDGs – the ultimate funding disruptor.
The international agreement that construes the SDGs, introduced the perfect storm, for innovators; financial markets, creatives, international philosophy, and political platforms. The structure of the SDGs gives tacit and explicit approval to do things differently – disrupt and innovate. This must be explored by the financial markets… up to and including the disruption of third parties intermediaries.
Disruptive financial modelling based on the SDGs is the perfect opportunity to disrupt and develop financial specific opportunities for the SDGs on the regional, international and city levels. The United Smart Cities is looking to explore every innovative financial corner to effectively fund the SDGs at the city level and guide the UN to a more innovative way of funding, which the SDG requires from all of us. If ‘no one is to be left behind,’ then we all must lead.
How about introducing a bridge between consumers citizens and institutional investors by encouraging the UN to explore an opportunity to develop a disruptive autonomic corporation supported by the robust capabilities of established UN agencies: group of investors intent on addressing the SDGs, business logic and using the UN as an original pool of capital. The UN, thus becomes a digital #token supplier. These tokens can flow to direct effects supporting collective projects.
The UN can thus also use its immense credibility to issue in prosperity and successfully support addressing the SDGs.
The data underpinning the SDGs and its’ targets is derived from credible and robust asset ledgers. These smart contracts can be mined to ensure and illustrate value which can back an SDG #cryptoasset. The UN data gathered by the #UNSD should be incentivised by the host, the UN, to track assets and debts. The UN is already set up to build and check the ledgers, suppling the robust background to the technology which would back a #cryptocurrency, removing corruption by an initial single ledger funnelled through the UN, ergo, adding to the trustworthiness of the asset.
This trustworthiness goes a long way to addressing the question; what is value? Transactions are peer to peer, trust based on collaboration. A notion that is central to the SDG, most notably SDG17.
The technology behind cryptocurrencies can transform the economy, the beauty of block-chains. On a very basic level, blockchains are swift, flexible, cheap, granular, efficient, have low transaction costs and are unhackable. It reduces uncertainty, facilities economic activity and links intrinsic value without a custodian. To be more clear:
1/ Lowering of uncertainty by exploring the identity of who is the counter-party: a technology solution of reviews/ratings/kite marks will aid in this endeavour. The cons focus on the technology, which is seen as fragmented and uses large amounts of energy. On the plus side, it is on a open global platform, any individual can be involved from any source, and it is user controlled to facilitate trade.
2/ Asset tracking, both of data and product, is an easy way to avoid tampering. This asset tracking can fit seamlessly into the UN statistics division [UNSD] current remit. The cryptocurrency aid in managing vendors across many supply chains; illustrating a shared reality across many non-trusting entities. Indeed, cryptocurrencies are robust enough to complete complex trades with added transparency.
3/ If there is reneging on a contract, there is automated intervention; as the smart contracts are binding and are guaranteed without the use of a third party enforcer. Bad actors will be collapsed and fall under automatic enforcement.
4/ Ending the custodian monopoly means ending remittance rip-offs, essentially disrupt the domination of third party organisations and the power of intermediaries – forcing banks and other financial institutions to develop new ways of supplying capital and liquidity. The value of cryptocurrencies is to easily solve the ‘leaky bucket’ issue; reducing costs, solve inefficiencies and eliminate corruption.
The reach of cryptocurrencies are ideally suited to raise funds for the SDGs. As regions that are not well connected to financial markets and in regions that have the resources, motivation, discipline but have no funding harvesting these resources to a mega-machine, the UN. Financially supporting the message of ‘leave no one behind.’ Essentially recording human exchange in a totally new disruptive way.
The headlines never seem to change: global enterprises involved in environmental disasters, violations of labor laws, questionable ethics, sub-par health and safety standards, negligent data practices, and the list goes on. In many cases, it’s not the enterprise itself that’s the problem, but the entities within its supply chain that are the root cause. Inevitably, this reflects poorly on the buying organization. Buying organizations are increasingly investing resources to support a healthy and secure supply chain and to add value to suppliers, especially when the consequences of looking the other way could mean a big price tag.
Today, just about every Fortune 1000 company has a formal corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and reports regularly on activities. And integral to CSR is supplier responsibility. In our view, there are two sides to a supplier responsibility agenda:
Hold your suppliers accountable to the ethical, social, environmental, health, safety and labor standards you’ve set forth.
Treat your suppliers fairly and support your supply chain by helping to improve both financial and non-financial performance (e.g., helping to improve their capabilities and provide training).
Know your supplier
These days, many companies publish their supplier responsibility initiatives (e.g., Apple), and include audits and reports that are made public. For example Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organizations that drives sustainability reporting by all organizations and offers a framework and guidelines. Most supplier responsibility programs include (or should include) a supplier code of conduct that serves as a manual or a guideline that communicates standards to suppliers. For example, there is a widely used code of conduct for the electronics industry, Electronic Industry Code of Conduct (EICC). A code of conduct will typically include:
Health and Safety: Ensure safe and healthy working conditions. Standards can be drawn from the International Labor Organization (ILO)or Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS 18001).
Environment: Compliance with applicable environmental specifications. For example, substance and materials usage, recycling, waste management. Examples include ISO 14000, and Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) in China.
Labor and Human Rights: Covers a wide range of issues such as preventing underage labor, ending excessive working hours, as well as promoting equality and diversity. Sample guidelines – The United Nations (U.N.) Declaration of Human Rights, The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Support your supplier
Having a supplier code of conduct helps to ensure various standards are met throughout your supply chain, but organizations should also be creating programs to support suppliers with education and training around their CSR initiatives. The following are some of the ways enterprises are supporting their suppliers:
Fair Treatment: A supplier responsibility program must include fair treatment of suppliers. This is mainly focused on the sourcing process and selecting vendors based on value, performance and price. Enterprises should be able to provide justifiable and transparent selection decisions and ensure confidentiality of supplier information.
Capability Building and Training: Capability building within specific industries and hosting of supplier workshops. For example, Apple created an environment, health and safety academy for suppliers. This 18-month academy offers 25 courses on topics such as environmental regulatory compliance, environmental aspects identification and evaluation, water management, air pollution control, and cleaner production. Such training can be applied to multiple tiers of suppliers throughout the supply chain.
Continuous Improvement and Monitoring: Focused on driving improvements throughout the supply base with regard to social and environmental responsibility. Organizations can support suppliers by helping to monitor improvements, implement self-assessments and self-monitoring, etc. Partner with suppliers that are falling behind to address any gaps and improve non-financial performance.
Finance: Financial support is typically not part of a supplier responsibility agenda but why not? With initiatives like SupplierPay, enterprises are encouraged to support suppliers financially by paying them early whenever possible. Accelerated payments to suppliers could mean a world of difference to their cash flows, and in turn, promote more collaborative and valuable relationships.
Blockchain and the future supply chain visibility
Blockchain is a distributed ledger that can track the movements of tangible and intangible asset types. While all the hype right now is piled up on its currency potential, it has far-reaching implications for the supply chain, including track and trace. Since it’s visible to anyone and can’t be changed once transacted, it can provide a complete audit trail for any transaction. That means tracking simple things like origin, transit information, as well as
health and safety records, environmental compliance, and labor and human rights records for any company in a permissioned network
For example, Hyperledger, an open source global collaboration hosted by the Linux Foundation, is using its Hyperledger Sawtooth project to track the whole supply chain journey of seafood, an industry traditionally rife with illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices. A blockchain-operated seafood supply chain results in transparency that cannot be tampered with. Furthermore, it levels the playing field for suppliers, rewards good practices, saves time through automation, and builds trust with vendors and consumers.
Supply chains are increasingly playing a more integral and impactful role for large businesses. Ensuring that initiatives like those mentioned above are implemented throughout your supply chain can not only mean great results for your business, but great results for the environment, communities, and workers.
Join Global Sourcing Council on May 30th for a webinar on how the business community can leverage blockchain to help finance the SDGs. Tokenizing impact with blockchain helps to verify the results of social and environmental initiatives to further propel the 2030 Agenda forward while achieving real and tangible results.
In this webinar, we will explore the challenges the international community has faced with regard to financing the SDGs and explore several potential innovative solutions such as blockchain. We share few examples of organizations stepping up to the challenges and experimenting with the blockchain for responsible sourcing and sustainable development.