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“Blockchain enables us to build trust”

June 4, 2018

The series of events “Talk Sustainability – Nachhaltigkeit im Dialog” gives BASF employees the opportunity to talk about current sustainability topics with external guest speakers on a regular basis. Jessi Baker, founder and CEO of UK based start-up Provenance, discussed with about 200 employees in the “Talk Sustainability” event on April 25 about blockchain and sustainability. We spoke with her about the possibilities of this new technologies and the impact for society and BASF.

Jessi Baker during the event "Talk Sustainability - Nachhaltigkeit im Dialog" in Ludwigshafen.

What is blockchain and what is Provenance doing?

Blockchain is a shared global database that can act as a source of truth for multiple parties building trust across a network. We are looking into the future of why you trust a brand and we want to build that future based on transparency. So what we are setting out to do is to help every product – whether it is an ingredient or a component or the finished item in your hand that you are buying in a supermarket – to come with accessible, trustworthy information about their origin, their journey and their impact on society and the environment.

How and why did you get the idea to found Provenance?

First, it was personal frustration about how little we know about the things we buy. Second, the love of technology. We believe that buyers in the future will take much more data-driven decisions whereby the brand factor will be influenced by this data rather than trust in the perception of a brand.

What are the benefits of blockchain technology?

The information in blockchain is immutable and cannot be changed. It is shared and decentralized and not all in control of one person, which makes it democratic. Its heritage also makes it resilient and auditable.

How does blockchain contribute to more sustainable processes and solutions?

We have built an application on a public blockchain which enables us to build trust across supply chain networks by providing information about products: where they come from, who created them, and some of the key validated criteria of those products. So we allow companies to engage with a public blockchain which is allowing people to store key verified claims about that product – and many of those verified claims are related to sustainability, e.g. “this is organic” or “the workers in this factory have been paid fairly”. We create a token, a virtual copy like a passport of the product, that carries these verified claims. This information can be opened by other people.

What can BASF learn from a start-up like Provenance and vice versa?

A start-up knows the art of failure which means failing fast and not being afraid when it happens. We are thinking outside the box, not incrementally. You may also underestimate how a small technology can transform a market completely.

On the other hand, BASF is fantastic in terms of thorough processes in innovation and production. We have got a lot to learn in material knowledge. We are also learning what drives a business like yours and how our innovations match with BASF’s innovations.

Birgit Hellmann
Global Sustainability Communications