Coca-Cola works with US State Department on blockchain pilot to combat forced labor

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Coca-Cola will use the blockchain pilot program to monitor workers' rights and contracts. ©GettyImages/Czgur
Coca-Cola will use the blockchain pilot program to monitor workers' rights and contracts. ©GettyImages/Czgur
Coca-Cola and the US Department of State have jointly launched a blockchain pilot program in an effort to combat forced labor worldwide. The BitFury Group and Emercoin will build the blockchain platform for the pilot, which will include a secure, transparent registry for workers and their contracts.

The US Department of State said it will provide its labor rights resources to support the growth of the blockchain platform, its first venture into the technology.

Blockchain is an emerging technology that uses a public distributed ledger to chronologically track transactions made with cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin where they are stored across a global network of computers.

“The innovation of the blockchain begins with the fact that no central entity owns or controls it,” ​Blockchain Trust Accelerator, a non-profit created by BitFury that is also involved in the pilot program, said on its website.

"Blockchain has the potential to become a transformative technology of our lifetime. It is increasing its footprint in our daily lives every day and is expected to play a major role in trade, business, healthcare management, and finance, and we hope at the State Department as well," ​Deputy Secretary Sullivan said at the Blockchain@State Forum in October 2017.

The US Department of State also recently announced an open competition for organizations to submit projects that develop and pilot the use of blockchain to solve worker rights for up to $500,000 in funding.

Coca-Cola and human rights

According to the International Labor Organization, nearly 25 million people are working in forced labor situations and 16 million of those individuals are being exploited in the private business sector.

Using the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a guide, Coca-Cola published a separate human rights report last year identifying and addressing its salient human rights risk such as child labor, forced labor, working hours, access to water, land rights, among others.

The report was based on two years of research (2015-2017) of its global sugar supply chain, the company’s biggest sourced commodity.

“We began mapping and prioritizing our human rights risks according to scale, scope and ability to remediate, which were then discussed and evaluated in workshops with participants from all functions across four continents, involving more than 180 experts,”​ Coca-Cola said.

Along with the blockchain pilot program, Coca-Cola said it would conduct 28 country-level studies in 14 countries on child labor, forced labor, and land rights related to its sugar supply chain by 2020.

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