ScanTrust and BigchainDB Realise a New Model for Social Impact: the GoodChain Foundation

It wasn’t long ago that a product label bearing the words “all natural” and a picture of a green leaf was enough to inspire a shrug and a purchase. Nevermind whether said product was, in fact, all-natural. Those days are all but gone. Since then, more than a few complaints to consumer rights watchdogs, petitions, and a number of lawsuits have — rightly — driven “all natural” claims off many labels. This has been to the benefit of consumers, but there is something else that has contributed more than anything else to giving us, the buyers, an upper hand in the market. The rise of e-commerce and internet connectivity has single-handedly empowered us by providing a tool to become better educated, more aware, and ultimately delivering the power of choice to decide which brands are successful. With that power, we are voting with our wallets, patronising or shunning one brand or another with the flick of a thumb across our phones. One poorly worded tweet is all it takes for a brand to find itself boycotted and back at the drawing board, scrambling to damage control an image with millions in marketing bucks. That’s, of course, if they are still in the market after the smoke clears.

So we have new demands, but what are these demands? We can distill these down to four:

  • We want guarantees of product authenticity.
  • We want transparency into the source of products.
  • We want proof that products are ethically sourced and responsibly manufactured.
  • We want to know about the impact on the greater world that our purchases from one brand or another have.

It’s a short list, actually. To be fair, it would require a rewiring of fast moving goods brands pretty much across the board. For example, how would a brand guarantee reveal all of what’s behind the curtain with their supply chains? Imagine if Zara had end-to-end transparency with all of their products as of tomorrow. We’d surely see into a dark corner or two. And how would a brand with nothing to hide verify the ethical sourcing of products without personally confirming supplier claims? What authenticity solution is best to combat fakes? How do brands even begin to offer authenticity markers when customers don’t trust their brand to begin with? How can brands provide an honest guarantee of positive social impact with their products?

Fortunately, where there is a challenge there is often an opportunity. GoodChain is a platform that addresses problems surrounding the relationship between brands, consumers, and goes one step further to benefit social impact causes as a matter of necessity. Namely, GoodChain is set up to contribute to important social causes such as fair pay for farmers and factory workers, humane treatment of livestock, and financial support opportunities for small business expansion. This is how it works:

  1. Brands add unique identification codes to their products that pair the physical product with information like the source of the product, date of production, and other details. When the unique identifier is added to the product, a loyalty point value is simultaneously pegged to the product. This value is unlocked and distributed when consumers use an application to read the code on packaging.
  2. Consumers buy a product and read the unique identifier on the product. Interacting with the unique identifier is rewarded with authenticity verification and origin information about the product. To further sweeten the deal — and incentivise consumers to keep using the GoodChain platform — they are also instantly rewarded with loyalty points that can be redeemed for more product, or be donated to aid social causes including the suppliers themselves.
  3. As brand-designated social causes, or suppliers, receive loyalty points from consumers, the points are accumulated until they reach a goal threshold when they are converted into cash. This is then used to fund social impact missions or supply improvement efforts.
  4. In many charity schemes, it is difficult to trace what exactly social causes do with their donated resources. Because rewards are delivered on a decentralised database that is very difficult to compromise, social causes and suppliers are obligated to report on how they use funds they’ve received through the GoodChain Foundation. This transparency makes it easy for consumers, or anyone, to check on the social impact they’ve contributed to by choosing a particular brand or product.

Perhaps the only question to ask is, why is it better to support GoodChain over another, probably more established, better funded initiative for social good? The simple answer is that it isn’t better. The GoodChain ecosystem is designed to minimise “the collaboration margin” or the unnecessary, but common, waste of donation resources that results from a lack of transparency and appropriate collaboration. We work alongside other efforts for social good, not at all to be competitive with or replace other projects. We will strengthen existing social good projects, at all levels, even as much as we foster new ones. For this reason, among others, the GoodChain stands out in ambition.

The GoodChain Foundation is currently focused on building a network of brands, social good foundations, and partners to join the ecosystem. We call these members “Stewards”. The first of these Stewards was our founding members ScanTrust SA, a software-as-a-service company founded in 2014 connecting physical products to the internet using unique identifiers, and BigchainDB, where we got the blockchain code base that is the backend for how we move value through out the platform. If this says anything, it is that while the GoodChain Foundation is in its infancy, we are off to a strong start with excellent organisational support, a lightning-fast technology integration, and an open source pedigree, inclusive of third-party technologies and collaboration. All that said, we are confident that the GoodChain Foundation is all but guaranteed a very bright future.

Second only to supporting worthy causes, the GoodChain paramount mission is to build trust between brands and consumers in an environment that sorely lacks that trust. Providing a solution that closes the brand-consumer gap will attract resources that enable the GoodChain effort. In this way, GoodChain is a win for business, a win for worthy causes, and a win for us, the buyers. It’s no secret that GoodChain was born of the empowerment of a new, empowered, consumer while brands have lost ground and made mistakes relevant to those changes. Consider a future when you won’t need to doubt “all natural” labels ever again. Imagine such a future existing because brands put their resources into being honest as a matter of business survival. Imagine at the same time that this is all for the greater good. This is achievable and this is what drives us. We hope you’ll join us in our enthusiasm for our mission.

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