To understand why 2017 New Zealand Young Innovator of the Year Samantha Jones jumped on the blockchain bandwagon, it’s helpful to understand her other pursuits.
Jones is the founder and CEO of Little Yellow Bird, a certified B Corp located in the capital city of Wellington and dedicated to producing uniforms, basics, corporate attire and workwear sustainably manufactured using organic, pesticide-free and “rain-fed” cotton grown in India. A staffer named Suchi serves as the brand’s “boots on the ground” in India, closely coordinating with factories and conducting regular audits and social compliance checks to ensure Little Yellow Bird’s ethical standards are being met. Those manufacturing facilities adhere to zero-waste guidelines, drawing energy from solar panels and installing rooftop gardens for energy efficiency, according to the brand’s website.
Despite that obsession with all things sustainable and ethical, Jones reportedly found that the brand was not fully able to communicate all of these good things to customers at the point of transaction. According to Jones’ blockchain proposal to the NEM Community Fund, Little Yellow Bird “has complete transparency in the supply chain, but the company is unable to effectively communicate the process to key stakeholders and allow consumers to understand the process real-time at the point-of-sale.”
In launching Origins, Jones thinks the answer to her transparency challenges lies in the blockchain—the distributed ledger technology that’s seen by many as the answer to improving supply chain operations.
The proposal for funding Origins describes the startup as a supply chain analytics tool built on the NEM blockchain technology platform and offering a real-time history of transactions so that anyone with access can verify that processes and standards are being followed. Origins addresses some of the most common supply chain challenges, such as the lack of effective quality control mechanisms and the absence of a means of proving where exactly raw materials come from. It’s not only tackling the issue of slave labor head on by creating a way to verify worker wages throughout the supply chain but also packaging all of this information in a way that’s understandable so shoppers can make a more educated purchasing decision.
The NEM Community Fund ultimately approved Jones’ proposal, allocating $1.2 million to get the blockchain startup off the ground. Jones intends for Origins to become an “ethical supply chain blockchain solution” used by brands and retailers worldwide.
“Origins will become a global solution that will authenticate raw materials and inputs in fashion supply chains, enabling consumers to create an impact by choosing brands that align with their values,” the proposal said.