MO.1.E || What Gets Measured, Gets Improved – Impact Assessment and Environmental Labeling Along the Production Chain

Köhler, Susanne; Bager, Simon; Pizzol, Massimo

While blockchain is most known for its financial applications, blockchain-based technologies (BBT) have been increasingly used in other sectors such as healthcare, art, and supply chain management. Previous literature acknowledge that BBT can provide trusted information for consumers and improve supply chain transparency and efficiency, but little is known on how BBT interact with existing voluntary sustainability standards (VSS), the main mechanism for governing agro-food supply chain sustainability. The purpose of this study is to investigate this interaction and explain which conditions affect their relationship. We analyze the relationships between BBT and VSS, asking if BBT fosters collaboration with or innovation among existing VSS or if interactions lead to competing or co-existing solutions. Our hypothesis is that interactions between BBT and VSS can be synergistic, neutral, or antagonistic. Using a case study approach, we perform a comparative analysis of consumer-facing VSS and BBT cases from the agro-food sector that address sustainability using 12 indicators selected from literature. We then carry out cross-case assessments to characterize VSS and BBT approaches and their relationships to understand the conditions affecting it. Preliminary results show that while BBT mostly co-exist with VSS, specific cases have a synergistic relationship. BBT can bring improvements in respect to transparency and communication, as well as automate processes and reduce bureaucracy, but their accountability to the public is low. VSS, in contrast, are more accountable to stakeholders and include clearer certification processes and criteria. Our study provides an improved understanding of the interaction between BBT and VSS which can inform their stakeholders of the potential barriers as well as opportunities for cooperation. Ultimately, improving interactions between BBT and VSS can strengthen sustainability governance and foster positive social and environmental impacts.