Coca-Cola, the U.S. State Department pilot blockchain to fight forced labor

Coca-Cola, the US State Department and crypto organizations Bitfury Group, Blockchain Trust Accelerator and Emercoin have launched a pilot project that will use blockchain to enforce worker rights

Marcus Zallman
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Coca-Cola and the State Department, along with two blockchain startups – The Bitfury Group and Emercoin, are launching a project to create a secure registry for workers using blockchain technology, Reuters reported. This is the State Department’s first major blockchain project, and serves to reinforce the technology’s growing application for social and humanitarian causes. Coca-Cola said that it has been looking into multiple blockchain projects for over a year.

The initiative is set to use blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to create a secure, decentralized registry for workers and their contracts.

Recently, food and beverage companies have been facing increased pressure to address the risk of forced labor in countries where they obtain sugarcane. A study released last year by KnowTheChain (KTC), a partnership founded by U.S.-based Humanity United, showed that most food and beverage companies fall short in their efforts to solve the problem. 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.

The study said Coca-Cola, one of 10 global companies looked at by KTC, has committed to conduct 28 country-level studies on child labour, forced labour, and land rights for its sugar supply chains by 2020.

“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,” Brent Wilton, the Coca-Cola’s global head of workplace rights, told Reuters.

Using blockchain technology’s validation and digital notary capabilities, the project will focus on creating a secure registry for workers and their contracts, explained Blockchain Trust Accelerator(BTA), a non-profit organization involved in the project.

The blockchain solution will be built by The Bitfury Group, while Emercoin will provide blockchain services. The State Department will provide its expertise on labor protection.

“The Department of State is excited to work on this innovative blockchain-based pilot,” Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby told Reuters. He said that while blockchain cannot force companies to comply with labor contracts, it creates a validated chain of evidence that will encourage compliance with such contracts.

The State Department will offer its experience with labor protection, while Bitfury Group and Emercoin are producing the blockchain platform itself, and Blockchain Trust Accelerator is a non-profit aiming to use its namesake tech for social good.