Every manufactured product is the result of a complex series of exchanges. Material sourcing, part production and assembly, harvest, wholesale, salvage—all these must be logistically assembled into a supply chain in order to assure continuous availability of merchandise. A single cup of coffee or pair of socks is likely the result of the labor of thousands.
As consumers have become more and more aware of the exploitative labor that supplies goods in a globalized economy, demand for products that utilize fair trade and ethical working conditions has risen. Criteria for best practices, however, remains under-defined, emphasizing high-profile violations in safety, wages, and environmental impact, but often neglecting to identify smaller-scale practices in the supply chain that put workers at risk.
One of these practices receiving increasing attention is the cost of casual labor. In many places around the world, workers key to supply chains for even the most established of global brands are paid in cash, leaving no valid paper trail to create financial identities that would allow them access to basic services such as banking or credit. This creates a vicious cycle: without financial records, workers cannot be banked. Without banking, it is difficult to pay workers on the books.
The World Bank reports that over a billion people currently lack a digitally verifiable financial identity, keeping them ensconced in precarious casual labor economies and blocked from moving into formal economic exchanges.
BanQu is an online platform that addresses this shortfall in data management through blockchain technology.
Most familiar with blockchain understand it in relation to cryptocurrency, but this relationship is not fixed. While cryptocurrency is a digital medium of exchange, functioning like money but eliminating the requirement for a central banking authority, blockchain is merely the technology that enables this decentralized system. Operating as a collaborative, networked register of transactions and relationships, blockchain technology has a much larger range of application than cryptocurrency alone.
BanQu has harnessed blockchain's capacity for verified, decentralized information management to create a pathway to economic identities for casual laborers. The platform records transactions between different levels of the supply chains on the blockchain, creating permanent records of exchange that provide verifiable participation in economic activity, assure fair payment for vulnerable workers, improve budget accuracy, and more.
This approach to data management has the potential to eliminate the abuses of so-called shadow economies, increasing accountability for companies and reinforcing the agency and empowerment of laborers at every level of the supply chain.
BanQu is a for-profit, subscription-based platform available to companies seeking to address the problem of casual labor and record keeping in their supply chains. BanQu offers the paid service with insight into the profit-producing power these practices have to offer the business itself: the branding advantage of communicating to consumers a commitment to ethical labor and the financial benefit of greater exactitude in accounting.
BanQu frames its goals doubly in social impact and profitability. The platform has set itself a 2023 deadline to enable 100 million people to rise out of extreme poverty, defined by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals as an income of $1.25 a day or less. In this same timeline, the company also aims to create $100 million dollars in profitable revenue.
The company draws on research linking the establishment of a digital financial identity to a wide range of social impacts, from advancing gender equality to decreasing manufacturing pollution to ensuring the safety of farmers working during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The platform's adoption is growing quickly, recently boasting major brands Mars and Anheuser-Busch.
Blockchain is a technology in early days of usage and regulation. Adoption can be hindered by widespread misrecognition of its capabilities as exclusive to cryptocurrency, leading the company to express its function as the "world's first non-cryptocurrency blockchain global supply platform."
Aside from disassociating itself from the controversy of cryptocurrency, blockchain also poses challenges for data privacy. BanQu currently operates on a permissions-only basis to alleviate this security concern.