In the first blockchain project of its kind, Coca-Cola is teaming up with the U.S. State Department to use the digital ledger technology to help combat forced labor.
The new venture aims to create a secure registry for workers and their contracts with Coca-Cola and other multinational corporations using blockchain’s validation and digital notary capabilities, according to Blockchain Trust Accelerator (BTA), a non-profit organization involved in the project.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scott Busby said that while blockchain technology cannot compel companies or authorities to abide by labor contracts and rights, it can provide evidence of those contracts, which may encourage them to follow the rule of law.
“The Department of State is excited to work on this innovative blockchain-based pilot,” he said.
According to the International Labor Organization, nearly 25 million people work in forced-labor conditions worldwide, with 47% of them in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Food and beverage companies are under pressure to address the risk of forced labor in countries where they obtain sugarcane,” Reuters said, noting that according to a study released last year by KnowTheChain, most food and beverage companies fall short in their efforts to solve the problem.
Coca-Cola said it had been exploring multiple blockchain projects for more than a year.
“We are partnering with the pilot of this project to further increase transparency and efficiency of the verification process related to labor policies within our supply chain,” said Brent Wilton, the company’s global head of workplace rights.
Blockchain Trust Accelerator is a global platform for harnessing blockchain to deliver social impact. Also involved in the project are U.S. tech company The Bitfury Group, which will build the blockchain platform, and Emercoin, which will also provide blockchain services.
Engadget noted that it is unclear how workers will be able access their information on blockchain when many of them might not even have a smartphone. “The project is still young, however, and this could still represent an improvement over a modern employment system that frequently lets companies abuse workers with relatively little consequence,” the publication said.