Report: More than 65 Ways Blockchain Technology Can Fix Global Environmental Challenges – WEF

Development/Heritage Stewardship/Humanitarian Response – Blockchain

Report: More than 65 Ways Blockchain Technology Can Fix Global Environmental Challenges
14 Sep2018
· Blockchain applications could disrupt how the world manages environmental resources, helping to drive sustainable growth and value creation
· This opportunity remains largely untapped by developers, investors and governments as the majority of projects are currently focused on areas like fintech and supply chains
· New global platforms are urgently needed to incubate a responsible blockchain ecosystem rather than specific projects

Building Block(chain)s for a Better Planet
World Economic Forum – In collaboration with PwC and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
September 2018 :: 37 pages

Principal findings
Our research and analysis identified more than 65 existing and emerging blockchain use-cases for the environment through desk-based research and interviews with a range of stakeholders at the forefront of applying blockchain across industry, big tech, entrepreneurs, research and government.

Blockchain use-case solutions that are particularly relevant across environmental applications tend to cluster around the following cross-cutting themes: enabling the transition to cleaner and more efficient decentralized systems; peer-to-peer trading of resources or permits; supply-chain transparency and management; new financing models for environmental outcomes; and the realization of non-financial value and natural capital.

The report also identifies enormous potential to create blockchain-enabled “game changers” that have the ability to deliver transformative solutions to environmental challenges. These game changers have the potential to disrupt, or substantially optimize, the systems that are critical to addressing many environmental challenges.

A high-level summary of those game changers is outlined below:
“See-through” supply chains: blockchain can create undeniable (and potentially unavoidable) transparency in supply chains. Recording transactional data throughout the supply chain on a blockchain and establishing an immutable record of provenance (i.e. origin) offers the potential for full
traceability of products from source to store. Providing such transparency creates an opportunity to optimize supply-and-demand management, build resilience and ultimately enable more sustainable production, logistics and consumer choice.

Decentralized and sustainable resource management: blockchain can underpin a transition to decentralized utility systems at scale. Platforms could collate distributed data on resources (e.g. household-level water and energy data from smart sensors) to end the current asymmetry of information that exists between stakeholders, enabling more informed – and even decentralized – decision-making regarding system design and management of resources. This could include
peer-to-peer transactions, dynamic pricing and optimal demand-supply balancing.

Raising the trillions – new sources of sustainable finance: blockchain-enabled finance platforms could potentially revolutionize access to capital and unlock potential for new investors in projects that address environmental challenges – from retail-level investment in 6 Building Block(chain)s for a Better Planet green infrastructure projects through to enabling blended finance or charitable donations for developing countries. On a broader level, there is the potential for blockchain to facilitate a system shift from shareholder to stakeholder value, and to expand traditional financial capital accounting to also capture social and environmental capital. Collectively, these changes could help raise the trillions of dollars needed to finance a shift to low-carbon and environmentally sustainable economies.

Incentivizing circular economies: blockchain could fundamentally change the way in which materials and natural resources are valued and traded, incentivizing individuals, companies and governments to unlock financial value from things that are currently wasted, discarded or treated as economically invaluable. This could drive widespread behaviour change and help to realize a truly
circular economy.

Transforming carbon (and other environmental) markets: blockchain platforms could be harnessed to use cryptographic tokens with a tradable value to optimize existing market platforms for carbon (or other substances) and create new opportunities for carbon credit transactions.

Next-gen sustainability monitoring, reporting and verification: blockchain has the potential to transform both sustainability reporting and assurance, helping companies manage, demonstrate and improve their performance, while enabling consumers and investors to make better-informed decisions. This could drive a new wave of accountability and action, as this information filters up to board-level managers and provides them with a more complete picture for managing risk and reward profiles.

Automatic disaster preparedness and humanitarian relief: blockchain could underpin a new shared system for multiple parties involved in disaster preparedness and relief to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, coordination and trust of resources. An interoperable decentralized system could enable the sharing of information (e.g. individual relief activities transparent to all other parties within the distributed network) and rapid automated transactions via smart contracts. This could improve efficiencies in the immediate aftermath of disasters, which is the most critical time for limiting loss of life and other human impacts.
[See more detail from p.20 below]

Earth-management platforms: new blockchain-enabled geospatial platforms, which enable a range of value-based transactions, are in the early stages of exploration and could monitor, manage and enable market mechanisms that protect the global environmental commons – from life on land to ocean health. Such applications are further away in terms of technical and logistical feasibility, but they remain exciting to contemplate.

These game changers, and the more than 65 use-cases identified, offer the exciting potential to build a sustainable future; however, as with many emerging technologies, there are a number of risks to manage and challenges to overcome. In broad terms, the challenges relate to blockchain’s maturity as a technology, regulatory and legal challenges, stakeholders’ trust in the technology, and their willingness to invest and participate in applications…


7. Automatic disaster preparedness and humanitarian relief
As the frequency and scale of natural catastrophes increases, in part due to a changing climate, there is an increasing need both to prepare for when foreseeable natural disasters strike and to manage better real-time relief responses, e.g. coordinating and financing rapid support and supplies to people and areas where the need is greatest. Blockchain solutions could be transformational in terms of their ability to improve disaster preparedness and relief effectiveness.

Blockchain solutions are starting to be developed to realize Fourth Industrial Revolution-enabled disaster preparedness. IBM, for example, is spearheading a new initiative called “Call for Code”, working with the American Red Cross, to invite developers to create new applications to help people and communities better prepare for natural disasters.69 Concept-stage blockchain solutions are being proposed to mobilize public and private organizations to coordinate real-time disaster relief, matching community needs with least-cost suppliers. For example, connecting suppliers of clean drinking water with the helicopter pilots delivering that water could help ensure that deliveries are scheduled at specific locations within certain time frames.70 To enable this solution, smart-contract technology can determine which contract offer is the best one available based on the delivery needs of the community, including quantity, price, timing and location. The smart contract can trigger acceptance of the offer, and set in motion the delivery as well as confirming the delivery has taken place. SAP is involved in working on, and promoting, these types of “pooling and sharing” solutions, which could fundamentally shift how public and private organizations can be mobilized in the event of a natural disaster.71

An important challenge here will be to integrate disaster preparedness and relief platforms into existing early warning and mobilization systems, across both public and private entities. Ensuring adequate trust and resolving intellectual property (IP) and data privacy issues will be particularly important. Further challenges might arise in developing countries where IT systems might not yet be Fourth Industrial Revolution-compatible without significant investment and upgrades.

69. IBM, IBM Leads “Call for Code” to Use Cloud, Data, AI, Blockchain, for Natural Disaster Relief, 24 May 2018: http://newsroom.
Cloud-Data-AI-Blockchain-for-Natural-Disaster-Relief (link as of 03/09/18).
70. Galer, S., Blockchain to the Rescue: We Can Be Much Better at Weathering Natural Disasters, D!gitalist, 7 November 2017:
(link as of 03/09/18).
71. Ibid.