We speak to blockchain innovator, Leanne Kemp, who is the CEO of Everledger. Leanne tells us about her business, its use of blockchain and the work they are doing with electric car batteries.
1. Can you provide a summary of what you are doing at Everledger, and why it’s important?
Industries involving high value goods such as diamonds, gemstones, wine, luxury goods, and art are under increasing pressure to conform to verifiable, sustainable, and ethical sourcing methods. Everledger is an independent technology company that creates solutions which enable secure and permanent digital records of these asset’s origin, characteristics, and ownership, using a combination of technologies including blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent labelling, and Internet of Things (IoT).
This combination of technologies helps to bring much-needed transparency to the social and environmental issues caused by complex and often opaque supply chains, such as the sale of blood diamonds or counterfeiting of wine bottles. When businesses can have full visibility of their entire supply chain, including digital location, information compiled from manufacturers and producers, certification authorities, and retailers, they are empowered to make decisions that are profitable, sustainable and ethical at the same time. They also create a differentiating customer experience for their products, as consumers are more and more interested in buying verifiably authentic and ethical products.
2. Could you discuss what your vision of the circular economy is?
The circular economy is an alternative to the old take, make and dispose model. The current linear economic system is reliant on the constant, ongoing extraction of finite virgin raw materials. In a circular economy, secondary resources will represent just as attractive an option for manufacturers as virgin raw materials. This vision will require trust, transparency, and traceability to achieve.
Using a symphony of technologies, raw materials can now be traced throughout their entire life cycle, from mining through to first use, remanufacture, and eventual deconstruction and reuse.
However, the circular economy can only come to fruition if lawmakers around the world give it adequate support. Governments and policymakers can play their part by investing in infrastructure, transportation, regulations and subsidies. If we want to live in a world which is more sustainable, regulators need to move to a paradigm where waste is seen as a source of valuable materials and products – not just a safety hazard.
3. Why do you think blockchain is so critical to improving transparency in supply chains?
Blockchain is a version of the truth that everyone can agree upon, as no single party entirely controls the whole blockchain. This unique ability to create a consensus means it can create secure, unalterable records of the origins, characteristics, and ownership of any product. With the help of RFID, NFC or other technologies, we can track and trace any product, from diamonds to vaccines, from works of art to PPE. This allows organisations to sidestep many of the issues plaguing traditional supply chains, such as fraud, value manipulation, and unsustainable practices.
For organisations working with high value goods in 2020, just adhering to ethical sourcing methods is no longer enough. Companies have to demonstrate hard evidence that the products they offer truly reflect the ethical values of their consumers. Blockchain can be a gamechanger for industries such as fashion, apparel or automotive, where consumers are increasingly basing their buying habits on ethical considerations.
4. Can you talk about the work which Everledger is doing in the field of electric car batteries?
By 2030, it is estimated there will be over 18 million electric vehicles (EVs) on our roads. However, there are still questions surrounding the sustainability of the electric car batteries needed to fuel this transition, as a result of their dependence on rare earth minerals. This has led to some commenting on whether they are any better than fossil fuels for the environment.
Currently, no scaled systems are in place to enable the reuse and recycling of over 11 million tons of spent lithium-ion batteries forecast to be at the end of their first life by 2030. Unverified extraction of critical minerals such as lithium and cobalt could also benefit armed groups, contributing to conflict.
At Everledger we enable organisations to trace and maximize the life cycle value of products such as portable electronics and EV batteries, using blockchain and IoT technology.
The internet of things (IoT) can empower organisations to keep track of products and minerals throughout their entire life cycle by collecting production, transport and environmental data as it happens. By capturing production, transport and environmental data in real-time, the internet of things allows us to keep track of products and materials, which in turn, improve opportunities to re-use and recycle them. All information is then securely stored on the blockchain to prevent tampering and increase transparency.
As the price of implementing these technologies continues to decrease, more EV battery components will be upcycled or remanufactured. This represents a more sustainable and cost-effective approach than continually harvesting more and more raw materials.
We recently received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for a pilot program to track the electric vehicle battery life cycle. The US automaker Ford is participating in the working group. We have also received a grant by the same US Department to work on portable electronics batteries.
It is clear that if sourced, manufactured and recycled responsibly, electric vehicle batteries can fuel sustainable development and reduce overall emissions for our planet.