Newlight Technologies’ fashion brand, Covalent, has announced that it will implement blockchain technology for its range of carbon-negative fashion accessories. Sunglasses and leather wallets appear to use synthetic plastics but are made from AirCarbon, a natural biodegradable polymer, PHB. Cognition Foundry developed the blockchain solution on the IBM Blockchain platform.
Before exploring the blockchain solution, it is worth understanding why AirCarbon is considered carbon negative by the Carbon Trust. According to Newlight, “Natural microorganisms in the ocean consume air and greenhouse gases dissolved in salt water to produce a fusible energy storage material inside their cells called PHB. “. And PHB makes this kind of natural plastic, which is used in covalent fashion accessories and by other companies in soluble surgical stitches. Newlight claims that its method of producing one kilogram of PHB absorbs 88 kilograms of greenhouse gases CO2e. AirCarbon was named “Biomaterial of the Year” by the Nova Institute in 2013.
Thus, PHB products could replace the use of plastics, reduce greenhouse gases during production and are biodegradable. However, we wondered if some of these greenhouse gases might be released when the material biodegrades (we’ll update with the answer). One of the reasons that PHBs have not gained in popularity is that they are relatively expensive to produce compared to synthetic plastics.
Meanwhile, a recent study conducted by IBM found that 57% of consumers surveyed were willing to change their shopping habits for more environmentally friendly consumption behavior. However, other research using US and Canadian regulatory frameworks for environmental claims found that over 95% of products assessed in retail use some form of greenwashing on labels. And over 70% of products lack proof of their ecological or sustainability claims.
Covalent solves this problem by allowing consumers to track the carbon footprint of its products using blockchain technology. “Our goal was to give people the information they need to decide what kind of impact they want to have,” said Mark Herrema, CEO of Newlight.
Each Covalent product has a unique 12 digit number printed on the packaging, representing the creation time or “Carbon Date”. Customers use the number on the Covalent website to show the product creation process and the carbon footprint associated with each step. In addition, every process in the supply chain is stored in an immutable record on the blockchain.
“Blockchain’s ability to foster trust allows Covalent customers to better understand how their products were made,” said Alistair Rennie, Managing Director of IBM Blockchain. “In turn, Covalent can create a better customer experience and a better opportunity for consumers to understand the impact of their choices on the environment. The solution is hosted on IBM LinuxOne and uses Hyperledger Fabric.
Meanwhile, various initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturing are implementing blockchain solutions into their processes. Recently, the Green Chain Initiative was launched with the aim of increasing renewable energy in manufacturing. Additionally, the Interwork Alliance is creating standards for carbon credits and last month a group of cryptocurrency companies launched a tradable carbon token.