Unlocking the power of blockchain for sustainable packaging

Concern is rising worldwide about the environmental impact of non-recyclable and non-biodegradable packaging. As a bio-based material, paper products are a vital alternative. To deliver sustainable paper packaging solutions, however, we must ensure that the wood is sourced responsibly from well-managed forests.

This requires forest certification and a high level of transparency and incorruptible tracking systems. With Project Trado, the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is testing the use of blockchain technology to reinforce chain of custody systems.

Trado is designed to create a real-time view into certification at origin and a single source of truth using blockchain technology. If realised, it can result in fairer distribution of benefits along a product supply chain as well as higher visibility into the sustainable attributes of packaging.

Project Trado brought Sappi together with major global brands (Sainsbury's, BNP Paribas, Unilever, Barclays, Standard Chartered and Rabobank) to explore how a new model of blockchain and other data-sharing technologies can enhance the sustainability of global supply chains without increasing production costs. It's all part of of our effort to pursue practical innovation that can move us towards the thriving world and sustainable future we envisage. 

Testing Trado in Malawi

The Trado model was piloted with smallholder tea farmers in Malawi, showing how sustainability in end-to-end supply chains can look at every aspect from the tea farmers' products right down to the product packaging sitting on supermarket shelves. Sappi's contribution involved ensuring the traceability of the sustainable paper packaging.

The tea farmers were offered financial incentives in return for feeding social and ecological data into the blockchain. The model could potentially pay for some of the investments needed to establish traceability across supply chains, although further investigation is needed to scope the model’s ability to do this while still benefitting smallholders. Trado hopes to use Malawi's experience as a blueprint for replication, development and experimentation in other contexts. 

The project represents a significant step towards technology-driven innovation to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It shows how collaboration between corporates, financial institutions and fintech firms can harness new technology for a fairer and more just world.

Read the latest Trado report.