Beverage giant Coca-Cola is partnering with the US State Department and two blockchain startups – The Bitfury Group and Emercoin – to fight forced labor using the technology behind cryptocurrencies.
According to the International Labor Organization, almost 25 million people work in forced labor environments. About 47 percent of those people are located in Asia.
To fight the use of forced labor worldwide, the companies are launching a project to create a secure registry for workers using blockchain technology. The goal is to use the technology to provide a safe and secure way to validate workers and their contracts to Coca-Cola and other multinational corporations.
Blockchain Trust Accelerator (BTA), a non-profit organization involved in the project, said Bitfury will build the blockchain platform for this project, while Emercoin will provide blockchain services. The State Department will be taking an advisory role and will provide expertise on labor rights and the protection of workers.
Brent Wilton, Coca-Cola’s global head of workplace rights, said Coca-Cola has been looking into multiple blockchain projects for over a year. He said the company is partnering with the pilot of this project to further increase transparency and efficiency of the verification process related to labor policies within their supply chain.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Busby said the project is the State Department’s first major project regarding labor rights utilizing the blockchain technology. He added 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.
Last year, global supply-chain transparency organization KnowTheChain (KTC) released a study which showed that most food and beverage companies fail to adequately address the problem of forced labor. The study said Coca-Cola, one of 10 global companies looked at by KTC, has committed to conduct 28 country-level studies on child labor, forced labor, and land rights for its sugar supply chains by 2020.
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