Starbucks has announced a trial program using blockchain technology to connect coffee bean farmers to its café customers with ‘bean-to-cup’ tracking.
The coffee giant will initially work with farmers in Columbia, Costa Rica and Rwanda in developing the project. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson announced the pilot scheme at the firm’s annual shareholders’ meeting in its hometown of Seattle. Johnson said that Starbucks was “taking traceability and trust to the next level”.
Ultimately the program is envisioned as giving bean farmers new financial opportunities as a result of a more direct connection with coffee consumers. As well as potentially benefitting farmers, the bean-to-cup tracking will help Starbucks maintain its commitment to an ethically sourced and sustainable supply chain.
The announcement was welcomed by the environmental non-profit organisation Conservation International. Its Chief Executive Dr M Sanjayan hailed it as “an extraordinary leap in transparency and accountability”.
Starbucks and Conservation International jointly launched the Sustainable Coffee Challenge in 2015. This will be used to measure the impact of the pilot program, which will take place over the next two years. The results will be publically shared, Starbucks has said.
Blockchain is the technology that underpins virtual currencies like bitcoin. Blocks of data are linked together into an open source digital ledger, using cryptography algorithms that protect the data from being modified. Each block contains transaction data, a timestamp and a cryptographic hash of the previous block.
Starbucks said that blockchain was just one of a variety of technologies being considered for the project.
Last month, Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Shultz said that the company was considering using blockchain technology in creating an integrated digital payment app. Experts have warned that blockchain technology is not yet fully developed, however, and that a dominant platform has yet to emerge and lead the market with standardised processes.
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