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The Weekender: Blockchain and Sustainability - the case of Walmart's Lettuce

The Weekender features a longer form publication or multimedia production from a reputable source. We select articles or things to watch or listen to that discuss issues and opportunities we deem just off the radar for many business people, students, and faculty. We aim to expand the mind, broaden the heart, and sharpen the analysis. Have a great weekend!

My notes

While in college, a new technology emerged about which I was dubious. We called it "email" and to me it seemed interesting but just another thing that would keep us indoors in front of screens. I was a bit of a Luddite perhaps. In fact, I went to the IT department and told them I didn't want an email account. They looked at me like I had two heads. These days I am more of techno-optimist and see things like blockchain, mobile, and the internet of things as critical innovations for living well together on a planet with finite resources.

Blockchain has been much touted since reaching fame due to Bitcoin. In this article, it is criticized as a glorified database but others claim it might be the game-changing technology that allows unprecedented transparency and trackability into supply chains. Many reports have shown that companies' major ecological and social footprint is in their supply chains. But few actually understand them. They have gotten long, complex and opaque. Can blockchain bring clarity to supply chains? Might this benefit the environment and human communities where raw materials are sourced and processed?

This article focuses primarily on food safety but one can imagine how its utility can and will grow to include, for example, tracking sustainable agriculture practices that protect our water, air, and the workers themselves.

From Farm to Blockchain: Walmart Tracks Its Lettuce

"Walmart says it now has a better system for pinpointing which batches of leafy green vegetables might be contaminated. After a two-year pilot project, the retailer announced on Monday that it would be using a blockchain, the type of database technology behind Bitcoin, to keep track of every bag of spinach and head of lettuce.

By this time next year, more than 100 farms that supply Walmart with leafy green vegetables will be required to input detailed information about their food into a blockchain database developed by I.B.M. for Walmart and several other retailers exploring similar moves."

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