In an effort to create transparency in its "bean to cup" tracking, Starbucks is launching a pilot program to trace coffee beans from Costa Rica, Colombia and Rwanda, according to a company announcement. The coffee chain wants to bring a "positive impact to smallholder farmers within its supply chain."
The use of blockchain, or "traceability technology," is a part of Starbucks's commitment to sustainability and ethically sourced coffee beans within its supply chain.
The pilot program will take place over the next two years, and the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a call to action the company co-announced with Conservation International in 2015, will track how impactful the blockchain technology is to the farmers. Starbucks plans to publicly share its results.
The goal is to connect customers to bean suppliers. Starbucks is not only leveraging the use of blockchain to better its product, but to promote an ethical approach to sourcing.
However, a noble cause is not without its shortcomings, and that could come down to the technology. Experts agree that the "winning" blockchain application is not yet on the market and many ledger platforms could face an uncertain future.
Though there are gaps in the technology, companies like IBM are working to create innovations to augment shortcomings. Big Blue announced this week that in the next five years, blockchain will be further supported by the likes of "cryptographic anchors."
These anchors include ink dots on digestible products to ensure the authenticity of a product within the supply chain, an anchor Starbucks could turn to if blockchain proves beneficial.
In the meantime, Starbucks has an inventive supply chain not limited to a single system of process. Instead, the company divides its tech portfolio into retail, corporate, consumer and business of the technology, or the foundation of the varying technologies.