Coffee Giant Starbucks Pilots Blockchain Technology
Coffee giant Starbucks is to pilot ‘traceability technology’ — which can be taken to mean Blockchain — in an effort to provide “bean to cup” transparency to its supply chain.
The firm will choose coffee farmers in Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda to help it develop data technology to log and share real-time information on the journey of coffee beans from plantation to high street café.
The aim is to firstly improve the visibility of its commitment to ethical sourcing, and secondly to help smallholder farmers financially.
Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks explained: “Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment. We’ll leverage an open-source approach to share what we learn with the rest of the world.”
Traceability technology could have profound implications for connecting coffee drinkers to the farmers who grow it, added Arthur Karuletwa, director of traceability at Starbucks.
“This could be a seismic change in an industry that hasn’t had much innovation in the way coffee moves across borders and oceans,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve met farmers who have very little by way of possessions, but they have a mobile phone. Digital has become the economic engine of this century, and traceability preserves the most valuable assets we have as human beings – our identity.”
Starbucks has long been committed to supporting ‘ethical’ smallholders. Of the 380,000 farms in its supply chain, some 99% pass the company’s ‘ethical’ standards. The remaining 1% of its supply has been intentionally left open to alternative sources to allow for new discovery and work in new origins.
Karuletwa said that Starbucks has always known the names of the farmers within its supply chain, adding that the ability to incorporate technology into the chain will potentially allow the firm – and even its customers – to connect directly with tens of thousands of sustainable coffee farmers, and help improve ‘financial inclusion’ for these farmers.
“Starbucks deserves a massive amount of credit for driving innovation in sustainable coffee,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, chief executive officer of Conservation International. ““In two decades of collaboration, they have consistently adopted new approaches to increase transparency and effectiveness, and so it is no surprise that they are driving forward with this new technology. The promise of connecting coffee farmers to coffee drinkers is an extraordinary leap in transparency and accountability, and it speaks volumes about Starbucks commitment to creating a product that is good for people and for the planet.”