US-based think tank New America, along with Levi Strauss, ConsenSys, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, have collaborated to launch a blockchain pilot program aimed at tracking factory working conditions and the well-being of factory workers, according to a January 24 announcement by New America.
The project is funded through an $800,000 grant to New America from the US Department of State and will be developed by Ethereum firm ConsenSys. It will expand on the efforts of the School of Public Health's Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) Health and Well-being Index.
SHINE has conducted surveys of approximately 9,000 workers concerning working conditions and well-being in Levi Strauss factories since 2015. The pilot program is intended to take these surveys one step further and provide a "scalable and long-term mechanism to anonymously and securely track and measure worker well-being with an immutable and digitally authenticated blockchain solution."
The first phase of the experiment, which is set to begin in the second quarter of this year, will focus on three Levi Strauss factories in Mexico that together employ a total of 5,000 workers. These workers will take a "blockchain-powered survey," which is intended to "provide a workforce-wide view of factory conditions and individual health and well-being." SHINE believes the results will lay the groundwork for a truly transparent assessment of factory life.
ConsenSys founder Joe Lubin expressed his desired outcome for the project:
"Ethereum is a technology that reduces the barrier for trust between two parties and will create a transparent environment for workers to securely and anonymously share critical information. Our goal is to develop, test, and scale a system that could empower employees, suppliers, and consumers to make informed decisions about factories, products, and brands."
The second pilot of the technology is slated to begin in 2020.
The most popular industry use case for blockchain technology to date focuses on tracking product as it moves through the supply chain. There are, however, some ongoing projects focused on working conditions. For instance, in October 2018, the government of Rwanda announced a blockchain pilot program aimed at tracking the source of the conflict metal tantalum, which has been connected to child labor and sexual violence against women. Earlier this month, IBM announced it was partnering with Ford, LG, and Minehub to begin experimenting with blockchain technology's ability to make sure the mineral cobalt is "ethically sourced."