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Starbucks is Piloting Blockchain: Here's Why We Should Care

It’s no secret that Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ Chairman, is a fan of blockchain. In fact, in February, Schultz announced that Starbucks is likely to utilise blockchain technology as part of a new payments app. He’s certainly not the first executive of a global brand to express an interest in blockchain technology. However, he may be one of the first to act. So why should we care?

Blockchain technology promises to give businesses a way to track their product throughout the supply chain journey. And the ability to track products transparently and autonomously throughout their entire product life-cycle has many benefits. For example, it makes avoiding legal issues concerning misplacement or fraud easier. It makes communicating important information (such as product transport conditions – temperature, humidity, etc.) more efficient. And it gives consumers a cast-iron guarantee that the product they are being sold is the same as the one they think they’re buying.

The benefits of employing blockchain go both ways, i.e., both companies and consumers stand to gain something. But suppliers will benefit, too. In Starbuck’s case, the 380,000 farmers the company work with in Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda will receive further reassurances that they are receiving a fair deal – an ethical stance that Starbucks is committed to. Giving farmers financial independence and confidence is part of Starbucks’ mission, and, by using blockchains, they believe they will be better positioned than ever to do this.

All of this should build deeper connections between Starbucks, suppliers and us, the coffee-drinkers. In a world in which consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact their spending habits have, this is critical.

Though Starbucks may be the first major global brand to adopt a large-scale blockchain model, the technology can, and will, be applied to other industries. The fashion industry, for example, is currently looking for ways to boost traceability. This, it is hoped, will provide benefits from both a sustainability perspective and in terms of combatting fakes. As such, blockchain will likely play a role in this development. Likewise, in terms of the luxury goods industry, blockchain may help ensure products – such as diamonds – remain ethical and conflict-free.  

Starbuck’s decision to implement the technology means that these benefits are no longer just a pipedream. Over the next few years, we can expect to see blockchain become more and more prominent. And that won’t be a bad thing.

What do you think about Starbuck’s decision to implement blockchain technology? Will other companies follow suit? What other benefits are there? And when can we expect to see blockchain become commonplace?

Email me your thoughts.


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