A WEF initiative may soon let you see what companies are lying about their environmental record via the blockchain (via Pixabay).
Technology

WEF project will use blockchain to expose corporate ‘greenwashing’

The World Economic Forum’s Global Ledger project seeks to bring sunshine to businesses’ environmental promises

A new initiative announced Tuesday by the World Economic Forum seeks to use blockchain technology to prevent “greenwashing” by companies that make public promises to improve their environmental credentials.

The Global Ledger project’s goal is to build a distributed ledger that will collect and track data from a wide array of public and private sources in order to keep companies honest about pledges to do things like reduce carbon emissions, cut pollutants, or stay within sustainable foresting and fishing quotas.

Launched on July 2 at the Young Global Leaders (YGL) group at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Dalian, China, the project plans to create a vast network of information gathering devices such as drones, cameras, nano-satellites, and Internet of things (IoT) applications. This will then be used to build an immutable, public blockchain database that will enable individuals, environmental watchdog groups, corporations, and even regulators to verify corporate pledges.

One prime area for this Global Ledger would be tracking the greenhouse gas emission limits agreed to by most countries, said Dorjee Sun, a YGL leading the Global Ledger project. 

“What’s quite surprising is today there isn’t really concrete, globally accepted, standardized scientific data that can show those commitments are met,” said Sun, co-founder of Perlin, a blockchain startup working with the International Chamber of Commerce on applications for supply chain tracing, trade finance, and combatting counterfeiting.

Pointing to the U.K.’s June 12 pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Sun said, “[t]his could actually be substantiated by Global Ledger because we would have the ability to aggregate data from public sources as well as corporates—what we call data philanthropy—and would be able to create meaningful results and monitoring and report cards.”

He added, “[t]here will be so much data they won’t be able to game it.”

Creating a central database on a blockchain will allow young people to get directly involved, whether by running a Global Ledger blockchain node or lobbying governments and pressuring companies to make more data available, Sun said. 

“Young people today want more than just activism, they want participation,” he said. “I feel that [Global Ledger allows them] to do more than just strike.”

Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus senior editor, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about meeting and incentive travel, as well as the consumer and employee loyalty business. He also covered the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, small businesses, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson owns no cryptocurrencies.