Skip to main content

4 companies using blockchain for social change

Many socially-aware startups and non-governmental organizations are using blockchain for social good. The following four provide a cross-section of the ways in which the technology is being used to better the world.

BitPesa

Millions of people around the world lack high-quality access to financial services. They have to pay middlemen extremely high fees to do something as simple as transfer money. This is particularly problematic when workers from African countries or other underdeveloped nations go overseas to work and send money to their families back home. According to a study of how blockchain is being used for good, sponsored by the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Foreign workers worldwide send an estimated $500 billion worth of remittances back to their home countries each year.” But high fees paid to middlemen eats into the amount of money their families receive.

BitPesa uses blockchain to solve the problem. It operates in seven African countries, including Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria, where it slashes charges on transferring money — only 1 to 3 percent for the transfer, compared with a typical charge of 10 percent. The money also gets transferred more quickly, in as little as one to 24 hours, compared with two to 14 days. Rather than use traditional ways of transferring money, BitPesa uses a blockchain-based settlement process, which allows it to cut costs and transfer money more quickly and efficiently.

[Also read: Blockchain's potential for driving social change promising ]

Plastic Bank

Plastic that ends up in the ocean is one of the worst environmental dangers facing the sea. Plastic bags, straws, bottles, and other plastic debris kill millions of marine animals every year and affect almost 700 ocean species, according to a National Geographic report. The problem is so serious, it notes, that the head of the United Nations Environment Programme called it an “ocean Armageddon.”

Plastic Bank is trying to help solve the problem using blockchain. It pays people using blockchain-secured digital tokens to gather the plastic and bring it to Plastic Bank recycling centers. Plastic Bank, in turn, recycles and sells the plastic. In this way, not only does Plastic Bank help clean the ocean of plastic, but it also provides a secure source of income to poverty-stricken people. 

BitGive

When you give money to a charity, do you know exactly where it goes? Are you sure it’s spent wisely? Do you know what results it has produced?

Typically, the answer to those questions is no. That’s the problem BitGive is trying to solve. The nonprofit uses a blockchain registry to provide transparency into where money goes when you give to charities.

In BitGive’s five years of existence, it has worked with the Water Project in Kenya to build wells to give people access to fresh water and Save the Children to provide typhoon relief in the Philippines, among other charities.

Blockchain venture capitalist Matthew Roszak, who founded the Chicago Blockchain Center and is on BitGive’s board of directors, explained the importance of BitGive to the Chicago Tribune this way: “If you’re able to build a blockchain workflow and really see accountably what’s happening to the dollar…from donor to recipient, and be able to account for the nails and two-by-fours being used to build a school or what have you, then my sense, in turn, is if you have that kind of transparency, people wind up giving more.”

Provenance

Was the fish you’re cooking for dinner caught in a sustainable way? Does the wool in the sweater you’re thinking of buying really come from where the label says it does—and is the material really wool? Was child labor used to manufacture it?

Provenance aims to help consumers know what has happened to goods along every step of the supply chain, starting with the original raw materials and following it to the point of retail. It does that by using a blockchain-based ledger that records information about goods throughout a product’s supply chain. A label is affixed to each product that lets anyone with a smartphone see the product’s entire supply chain history.

Both businesses and consumers can benefit: Businesses gain the trust of consumers, and consumers get transparency into the supply chain. And overall, with such transparency, the hope is that goods will be produced in a more ethical, environmentally focused manner because consumers will favor products made that way.

Provenance claims that more than 200 companies have used its service, including the U.K.’s largest consumer cooperative, the Co-Op, and global consumer goods company Unilever.

Over 1M people read enterprise.nxt. Are you one of them?

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.