Highlights from the #sustainableeverything panel

The panel “Sustainable everything: when blockchain, supply chain, and inclusive financing come together” took place in the frame of Berlin Blockchain Week, on Thursday the 6th of September 2018.

A panel on everything, you say?

A few months ago, we decided to programme an event for Berlin Blockchain Week: something that would allow us to reflect on Centrifuge OS in a wider context. This gave me the opportunity to think about Centrifuge: what do we stand for? why do we exist? And what is our societal obligation, if any?

Coming from a background in development economics — a branch of economics focused on understanding the macroeconomic mechanisms and variables that affect economic growth in developing countries the most- a focus on supply chains and their impact seemed like a logical and exciting proposal. One that could enable us to explain how Centrifuge understands financial sustainability (and sovereignty), and the importance of healthy supply chains.

Financing and distribution of both opportunity and wealth is something that the Centrifuge team thinks about a lot. How can we build an operating system that levels out the playing field for micro/small and medium-sized enterprises to compete in a global marketplace? To access financing under beneficial conditions? How can the tokenization of invoices (the creation of business NFTs) help us get a step closer to this?

In spite of being aware that there are complex structures in place (multi- or bilateral trade agreements, tariffs, as well as legal frameworks) that give some countries beneficial access to certain markets, there is a reality in which select companies access loans almost for free- and others that pay exorbitantly high-interest rates. The reasons for these discrepancies are many: risk assessments, reputation scoring, availability of historical transaction data, financing landscape, political environment, to name a few. Our team attempts to mitigate this- or at the very least- alleviate it, through the use of Centrifuge OS. More details on this here

Goal number 8 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) strives to “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”. An essential component of sustained and inclusive economic growth is access to financial services, which enable individuals and firms to manage changes in income, deal with fluctuating cash flows, accumulate assets and make productive investments. This, in turn, provides a framework for increasing labour productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, as well as accessing wider and international markets. I could go on.

With these ideas in mind, we decided to invite a few selected companies and governmental organisations, to talk about their visions for sustainability and the impact of supply chain financing.

Some insight from the panel

It was crowded!

We invited Stefano Bernardi to moderate and he did a fantastic job. We all subscribe to Token Economy and find his and Yannick Roux’ breakdowns helpful in navigating the speed and scope of the crypto space. If you don’t already, subscribe here.

The evening started with a short intro by each project followed by the panel and a sharp Q&A from the audience, which was the highlight (thanks to Einhorn for the #freecondoms and to everyone who came with burning questions!)

Provenance is a blockchain based solution that provides companies with the technology to give accessible and trustworthy information about the origin of their products, journey from farm to fork, and impact. In their own words, they enable businesses to build trust in their goods and supply chain. Founder and CEO Jessi Baker joined us to discuss how and why they use blockchain to increase transparency, and also highlighted the challenges involved: most importantly, access to consistent and quality data. Not only does the challenge lie in convincing companies to disclose their networks of suppliers and sub-suppliers (seen as the sources of competitive advantage), but also, these relationships sometimes still only exist in analogue form (read: paper). As one of the critical audience members put it: “how do you solve the problem of shit in, shit out” with regards to data sources.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is a German development agency, providing services in international development cooperation to the German Federal Government, among others. They started the GIZ Blockchain Lab in January 2018 with the mission to leverage blockchain applications for the SDGs by developing and identifying suitable delivery frameworks and conditions. We thought it would be valuable to get a governmental perspective, to understand what they have managed to achieve so far and what solutions they are proposing to the development community. We were joined by Franz von Weizsäcker, head of the programme.

A key insight from his side was regarding the importance of public-private collaboration on standards and models of certification. How do we know when we buy Fair Trade, or Organic, that all the produce is in fact, Fair Trade or Organic? That one container of fair trade bananas sometimes turns into two containers of Fair Trade bananas as it is crossing over the Atlantic? This can and should be mitigated and blockchain offers a clear advantage in this regard, by creating digital representations of the products, stored in a secure, auditable shared data layer.

Einhorn is a Berlin-based sustainable condom company, that not only excels in turning organically sourced rubber from Malaysia into condoms but also has a transparent and lively communication strategy, bringing the product and its journey closer to the end customer via detailed reports and social media. Einhorn has grown from a small crowdfunded project to a market leader in sustainable hygiene products, and even though they currently don’t make use of blockchain, we thought they would be an invaluable asset on the panel for their work with accountability and transparency. Judging from the feedback from the audience, having a non-blockchain start-up who gets their hands dirty was a great addition to the panel. From their team, we were joined by Elisa Naranjo, Head of Sustainability.

Einhorn’s sustainability model rests on the intense engagement with their suppliers on the ground and their commitment to translating this to their customers. Elisa and her team spend up to 4 months a year on the ground in Malaysia, Thailand and Tanzania, working with their partners to expand environmentally friendly farming practices, understanding their labour relations and thus creating a collaboration structure that creates increased income stability and future wellbeing for the people and land involved.

Lastly, we (Centrifuge) were represented by our CEO Maex, who explained what we are building and why: an operating system upon which companies of all sizes can transact globally while maintaining ownership of their data — including their validated company details, their reputation, business relationships, and subsequent transactions. Those interactions will form a data layer, a global business graph on which decentralised applications can be built. One such dApp may be a solution that increases access to financing to all companies along the supply chain, including n-th tier suppliers.

This is why we are excited about the future of Centrifuge and decentralized finance: because it will enable a more equal, accessible and fair version of global trade.

Thank you to all the panellists for coming from near and far: Jessi Baker, Elisa Naranjo, Franz von Weizsäcker, Stefano Bernardi, Maex Ament, to Blue Yard for generously hosting, to the rest of the Centrifuge team, and of course, the audience for their lively participation.

That’s all from the first in our series of multidisciplinary and effervescent meetups. Stay tuned for more!