How Blockchain Can Impact Ethical Fashion
It has been probably a decade since Blockchain technology was first released to the public. Just last year it entered into the mainstream meta-cognition with increasing demand. I was lucky, to be able to understand and learn on a recent Blockchain event in Puerto Rico, what all this really means in day-to day transactions and how this really could impact the current movement of conscious and ethical businesses in the industry. As curious and caring I am naturally, I started to think, how I could use this information to accelerate and progress my ethical fashion brand, Ravela, to be part of this amazing dialogue.
Based on my research, there has been already plethora of interest of fair fashion advocates how this emerging technology could benefit them. There were several articles in the Business of Fashion, that talked about how brands support communities and their consciousness of fair trade.
However, still the average fashionista, who might be ethically concerned and well educated, would probably be still confused when asked about what blockchain really is?
With that being said, I would like to give a brief understanding what blockchain and crypto-currency is and demonstrate the possibilities it can offer in the context of ethical fashion.
What does Blockchain really mean?
Blockchain is generally understood as a decentralized and secure by design ledger; that keeps digital transactions documented online; the decentralized part essentially means that plethora of parties control the ledger. By default, each transaction that is documented on the ledger becomes locked in, so nobody can modify or edit someone’s entry without everyone knowing it. Further, it is also transparent, everyone can see, who entered what.
To my mind, it is similar to a google document: Each time somebody edits the document, it is automatically seen by everybody else. However, there are some differences to the Blockchain. With blockchain you do not have only one central record of information, or one central ledger like what Google Docs has, you have plenty of those. Further, GoogleDoc is owned by them, so in theory they could go into the document and modify it.
To the contrary, Blockchain, is carried out by plethora of people and is not owned by anybody. On top, the decentralized ownership component, makes it secure and transparent throughout the transaction on the ledger.
In addition, any transactions, such as: money transfer, purchase of goods, are documented and stored in over 200,000 computers all around the world within the blockchain network.
What is Cryptocurrency? And how is this related to Blockchain?
Cryptocurrency are virtual currencies that can be used to buy goods and it is easier to pay through the network, as it cuts down the “Intermittent”, e.g. banks. For instance, Bitcoin or Ethereum are digital currencies that are used for that matter and they are powered by blockchain. In the same token, Bitcoin is not controlled by any entity such as a government. It is maintained through a global network of people who maintain computers that run the bitcoin software.
How would I tie any of this to Ravela?
There are two essential underpinnings that were revealed through the blockchain technology:
- Supply Chain transparency
- Economic systems concentrated in ethical fashion ecosystems
It is still difficult, to trace any communication and make all transactions visible and transparent from the farmer to the textile mill to the factory directly. There are now some software companies, which use very advanced technology to actually trace each unit of production and verify those communications by using the blockchain- secure ledger to push their envision forward. Thus, with this idea, ethical companies could be in touch with each supplier within the chain.
Advantages, such as being organic or fair-trade certifications cannot be plagiarized. Further, any employee abuse within factories, can be traced essentially, and seen who first made that claim. Consumers will be able to see whether a company is ethically conscious in each unit of labor and manufacturing, while not violating to each individual’s rights of privacy.
“As a Co-founder of Ravela, I cannot envision a better transparent eco-system that not only supports each unit within the system, but makes me feel good as somebody, who initiates this new concept into society”, Yesim Ozbarlas, April, 2018.
Regarding, economical systems, there are some blockchain companies, that already started supporting a marketplace of conscious businesses, that reward customers with a cash back in the form of its own digital currency. Thus, if you buy, for instance, at Ravela, you could get discounts at Patagonia.
All in all, it is a revolutionary, emerging process that will help societies to create their own rules and how they want to create value to share it within.
What can be problematic within this network?
While blockchain represents an enormous possibility for supply chain transparency, it can only work when Brands, such as Ravela seriously seeking for it. Thus, each ethical company needs to invite their own suppliers to take part of the technology. If one would not do it, “organic”; fair-trade and or employee abuse would not be transparent and blockchain would not be able to make any difference.
In the long run, it would be beneficial and progressive when a consumer walks into a store, pulls out their phone and scan the tag on a garment to be able to see the full supply chain information. While still researching, I truly believe that this will happen in the near future, probably in 2019;
As a Co-founder of Ravela, I am happy to be part of this movement and I genuinely will seek out to make this happen.
Yesim Ozbaras, Co-Founder, Ravella, LLC