World Economic Forum Looks to Blockchain for Supply Chain Woes

The World Economic Forum said Monday that blockchain and digitization can help supply chains survive crises like COVID-19.

AccessTimeIconApr 7, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:26 a.m. UTC

The World Economic Forum (WEF) said Monday that blockchain and digitization can help supply chains survive crises like COVID-19.

In a co-written blog post by WEF Head of Digital Trade Ziyang Fan and Rebecca Liao, executive vice president of blockchain enterprise firm Skuchain, the authors said this pandemic has forced many companies to grapple with their supply chains’ unexpected fragility, and prompted experts to reiterate “the need to obtain more visibility across the chain.”

That’s because many end-chain companies only knew their sourced parts’ immediate history, the authors wrote. “They usually have little to no knowledge of suppliers further up the chain,” and therefore little to no way of knowing if those unknowns are vulnerable to disruption.

Fan and Liao wrote blockchain would add such transparency without sacrificing corporate privacy. A properly built blockchain system would give broader access to relevant parties and also allow them to purchase supply chain data from their up-stream suppliers.

“Blockchain is the ideal technology to ensure that data on performance and risk, which underpin all supply chain finance transactions, can be shared in an authenticated manner with financiers and other parties to a transaction, even when there is no direct relationship between them,” the authors wrote. 

Record digitization is Fan's and Liao’s other partial solution to this crisis. For one, digitized supply chain records are far more accessible than paper copies, which, in this age of shuttered offices and stay-at-home orders may well be out of reach.

Digital-first companies and governments “are dealing with the supply chain disruptions much better than those without,” they wrote.

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